Some Islamic groups have apparently decided that opposing the Trump administration’s efforts to combat terrorism is more important than working to prevent the growth of violent extremism in their communities. Federal grants are being offered to Islamic schools and organizations for programs that would counteract the forces that may radicalize certain individuals. These are no small sums of cash they’re being offered but some groups are refusing the money citing President Trump’s rhetoric as the reason.
A California Islamic school wanted to keep an open mind before Donald Trump took office. But less than a month into Trump’s presidency, the school rejected $800,000 in federal funds aimed at combating violent extremism.
The decision made late Friday night by the Bayan Claremont graduate school’s board to turn down the money — an amount that would cover more than half its yearly budget — capped weeks of sleepless nights and debate. Many there felt Trump’s rhetoric singling out Islamic extremism and his travel ban affecting predominantly Muslim countries had gone too far.
It also made the school the fourth organization nationwide under the Trump administration to reject the money for a program created under President Barack Obama known as countering violent extremism, or CVE, which officials say aims to thwart extremist groups’ abilities to recruit would-be terrorists.
The program offering these grants is the same one started by Barack Obama under the generic, politically correct name “Countering Violent Extremism.” It is one of the triggers for candidate Trump’s criticism that the Obama administration lacked the clarity to identify radical Islamic extremism as the predominant terrorism threat in the world.
Rather than focus on radical Islam the program tried to portray extremist violence as a universal problem affecting many groups to the same degree as it is affecting the Muslim world. This led to a lot of sketchy analysis by which the left tried to label any violent act by non Muslims as some form of institutionalized ideological extremism. Pushing back against this sort of false moral equivalence is part of what helped Trump gain popularity.
Bayan Claremont had received the second-largest grant, among the first 31 federal grants for CVE awarded to organizations, schools and municipalities in the dwindling days of the Obama administration. The school had hoped to use the money to help create a new generation of Muslim community leaders, with $250,000 earmarked for more than a dozen local nonprofits doing social justice work.
But the fledgling school’s founding president, Jihad Turk, said officials ultimately felt accepting the money would do more harm than good.
A filmmaking group in Virginia rejected a grant of almost $400,000 and groups in Michigan and Minnesota have turned down grants of half a million dollars. About twenty percent of the grants offered as part of this $10 million program have been refused.
But amid what Turk called Trump’s “fixation on the American Muslim community,” it became clear that the president’s actions were more than campaign-trail rhetoric, he said.
“It was becoming more and more apparent,” Turk said of Trump, “that he’s actually looking to carry out all the scary stuff he said.”
If combatting the sort of people who saw off heads and burn people alive for not submitting to Islam seems less “scary” than a temporary pause in immigration then chances are this money would have been wasted by these groups anyway. They’re not serious about addressing the real problem. Perhaps this ill conceived Obama program should be discontinued entirely.