Religion-Based Suspicion Masquerading as Counterterrorism Has No Place in America

If the federal government has its way, more kids like Ahmed Mohamed with a tinkering habit and a curious mind will be targeted by anti-Muslim bigotry.

A new government program that could reach New York City threatens to further stigmatize American Muslims and cast unwarranted suspicion on innocuous activity. This week, the ACLU and the NYCLU, along with more than 20 community and rights groups, sent a letter to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, urging his administration to consider carefully whether the city should participate in the federal government’s “Countering Violent Extremism” program.

It’s been nearly four years since the White House formally launched its CVE plan. It’s been more than a year since CVE pilot programs were launched in Boston, Minneapolis, and Los Angeles, all of them targeting Muslim communities. It’s been seven months since the White House convened a CVE summit.  

And we still don’t know what, exactly, these programs are. The little we do know, however, is deeply troubling.

CVE purports to “support and empower American communities” and to provide a space for community discussions of political opinions and religious viewpoints. But what we’ve seen suggests CVE may task community members with monitoring each other and reporting to law enforcement the beliefs and activities of law-abiding Americans. To many, that’s known as spying. It’s hardly conducive to supporting communities and creating a space for differing viewpoints, and it stymies First Amendment-protected beliefs and activity.

We know that the premise of CVE is that there is a link between extreme or even “radical” ideas and a propensity to commit violence. But after years of federally funded studies, researchers have never been able to establish any such link, nor have they developed reliable criteria to predict who will commit violence.

After it emerged that the government is asking New York City to join a CVE initiative, we explained to the mayor that CVE programs that the government has already implemented have proven to be counterproductive and harmful to the communities they target.

Singling out American Muslims brands them as inherently suspicious and somehow less American. It reinforces the false notion that Muslims are prone to terrorism and violence. Ahmed, the teenage boy arrested in Texas for bringing a homemade clock to school, can certainly attest to the harm inflicted by such stigmatization.

What little we know about CVE programs raises serious concerns that these programs threaten the fundamental rights of the communities they target. Elements of CVE programs intended for schools task teachers and social workers with monitoring and identifying students they believe are at risk of “radicalization.” We still don’t know how they’re expected to do this or what characteristics the government believes such a student might exhibit, but we do know that schools should be environments where curiosity, inquiry, and intellectual discourse thrive. CVE threatens to turn them instead into places where children are viewed as suspects and personal expression as potential threats.

For years, we and other groups have asked the federal government what civil rights and privacy safeguards it has put in place within CVE. To date, we’ve received no concrete answers.

Simply put, there are too many unanswered questions about CVE and too many concerns raised by the little we do know. The public has a right to know what these programs entail and, just as importantly, what safeguards are in place to ensure that the rights and freedoms of every American are protected.

We’ll keep pressing the government for those answers. In the meantime, we hope Mayor de Blasio thinks twice about embracing CVE. 

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trinidad13

when you see jihadist flags @ the muslim day parade
and muslims in black like they are in al nussra well
i hope you wake up to see that violence is part of islam
But after years of federally funded studies, researchers have
linked ties to peopel such as gilani and that decades ago
this program should be implemented to the fullest extent

Anonymous

Look we all know Muslim cause most problems in the world. Why shouldn't they be targeted. And what is even More Ludacris is the fact that Muslims hate Jews and the ACLU is primarily made up of Jews so they would be the first on the chopping block but it seems the ACLU wants to protect the very people who would kill them while at the same time the ACLU has an anti Christian bigotry. Go figure

Anonymous

Does anyone think that violence can be the result of people choosing to behave as savages? Most people grew up surrounded by fakers speaking Christian values but who acted like thugs in or out of their Sunday suit. Nobody remembers the goofs Eric Rudolph or Timmy McVeigh. They were white and extremist with values similar to Dr. Tiller's white assassin. A thug is a thug no matter what he calls himself. Teach people the greater good is best served by not committing violence and basic to advanced etiquette.

Anonymous

Just want to say to the Anti Christ Liberals Unification- MAY God BLESS America! You are going after a CHRISTIAN school for having that on their news letter. Why don't you confront Obama when he says " God Bless America" at the end of his speeches? Hypocrites!

JoGoDant

Muslims make about 1% of the US population and around 35% of all extremist killings since 9/11.

http://securitydata.newamerica.net/extremists/deadly-attacks.html

Anonymous

I would like to see a sense of acknowledgement that the "Christians" who talk about anarchy, hanging the President, killing LGBT folks are in fact extremists that we should monitor, not peaceful Muslims who deserve the respect due them

Anonymous

thereligionofpeace.com/pages/americanattacks.htm

WeKnowDanielle

Hi Danielle,

As a muslim, I understand the value that a program like CVE represents for non-muslim americans. Who can blame them, really. Though, the program in its current format is operationally flawed, since the Average American citizen has no reference on what is 'prone to radicalization' and what is not. What a waste of time and taxpayers' dollars this program would be investigating all suspicious behaviour, especially, that everything can be suspicious through the eyes of the bigoted.
And even if the program has a legitimate scale for radicalization, and metrics and valid criterias, how is this going to be inculcated to all New Yorkers, will they open schools to teach the sane pedagogy behind it.
The program itself is not a complete bad idea, therefore it is not the principle of it that should be refuted, but the flawed process of the program and its high operational risk.

Ethically, this program would be correct not by targeting Muslims, but by targeting all suspicious behaviour within society, as many procedures are carried out either formally or informally in all societies. Hence, broadening the premise of this program, redefining its structure and operational requirements , would make for a much sustainable and less bigoted initiative.

We are Proud of You Danielle ;)

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