(WASHINGTON, D.C., 9/7/2017) — Today, more than a dozen national Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim and South Asian civil liberties and human rights organizations, and more than 20 activists, academics and community leaders* joined in signing the following statement opposing the expansion of the federal government’s Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) program.
The joint statement is in response to growing congressional calls to expand CVE to include white supremacist groups — as such a move would only serve to legitimate a program that actively surveils, profiles, censors, and divides the American Muslim community.
Also today, the Brennan Center for Justice, along with more than 50 other human rights, civil liberties and community-based organizations sent a letter urging leadership in the House of Representatives and the Senate to reject proposals to expand existing CVE programs to focus on white supremacist extremism.
[The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) was a co-signer to both letters.]
“In the wake of Charlottesville, the rising awareness of blatantly white supremacist groups (and statues) has understandably led to calls for greater action to prevent this violence. However, calling for the Countering Violent Extremism program to be expanded to include white supremacist groups serves to legitimate a program that surveils, profiles, censors, and divides the Muslim community. We urge our allies to refrain from lending their support to CVE programs, and to understand how the heated rhetoric around terrorism impacts the Muslim community.
“Although the current administration has reportedly seen CVE under Obama as being too soft, and has pushed for a complete focus on “Islamic extremism,” CVE has always disproportionately and punitively targeted Muslim and other marginalized communities. To include white supremacist groups would not alter the foundation of the program, which is based on debunked, pseudo-scientific theories that “radical” ideas lead to violence. Moreover, inclusion of white supremacist-focused groups would not decrease or redistribute the damage done to Muslim communities as a whole through this type of surveillance.
“Countering Violent Extremism programs treat Muslim communities as uniquely predisposed to commit acts of violence. Such beliefs are based on anti-Muslim racism and continue to uphold state-sanctioned Islamophobia that feeds into the larger dehumanization of our communities. The impact of mass surveillance on Muslims has been felt for years, causing distrust between us and law enforcement, and splitting our communities between those who participate in these programs and those who do not. Many of the programs and individuals participating or being asked to participate in CVE include teachers, mental health providers, and Muslim-led service organizations; beyond dividing and destroying our communities this chills access to much needed social services.
“Inclusion of white supremacist groups, harkening back to the token funding and messaging under the Obama administration presents CVE as an equal opportunity campaign against all types of “violent extremism.” But even Life After Hate, an organization known for helping people leave white supremacist groups which was cut from CVE funding by the Trump administration, actually included a component focused on “jihadists” within their CVE proposal. Not only has government funded CVE always disproportionately focused on Muslims, but CVE can easily be expanded to other marginalized communities deemed at-risk of “violent extremism,” as seen in the Denver Police Department’s program which would include outreach to refugee, Black Lives Matter, and LGBTQ communities.
“We can and must work together to end white supremacy in all forms, including challenging state institutions and policies like the expansion of CVE programs domestically and globally under the “War on Terror.” Inclusion of programs focused on white supremacist bigotry into a larger system of state surveillance that upholds institutional white supremacy through its criminalization of entire marginalized communities will fuel the system upon which overt bigotry thrives.”
American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee
Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC
Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles
Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR)
Culture and Conflict Forum
DC Justice for Muslims
Muslim Justice League
National Council of Asian Pacific Americans (NCAPA)
South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT)
Veterans For Peace
Washington Peace Center
Young Muslim Collective
Individuals (affiliation for identification purposes only)
Rania Ali, Muslim Youth Network
Sahar Aziz, Professor of Law and Director of the Center on Security, Race, and Rights, Rutgers Law School
Luqmaan Bokhary, Muslim Youth Network
Ayaan Dahir, Executive Director, Young Muslim Collective
Malwand Gulban, Muslim Youth Network
Arun Gupta, Defending Rights & Dissent
Atiya Husain, Assistant Professor of Sociology, University of Richmond
Arun Kundnani, Visiting Assistant Professor, New York University
Arria Lakha, Muslim Youth Network
Amara Majeed, Muslim Youth Network
Elizabeth McDavid, Montgomery County Civil Rights Coalition
Farhana Kara Motala, Montgomery County Civil Rights Coalition
Lamba Najib, Community Legal Advocate, Asian Americans Advancing Justice Los Angeles
Monique Salhab, Veterans For Peace National Board of Directors
Lakshmi Sridaran, (SAALT)
Suraj Sazawal, Defending Rights & Dissent
Shala Shamim, Montgomery County Civil Rights Coalition
Zenab Youssef, Brown University Muslim Student Association
Hena Zuberi, MuslimMatters
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