According to news reports, the Trump administration is considering renaming the Countering Violent Extremism Program to the “Countering Islamic Extremism” or “Countering Radical Islamic Extremism” Program. The government should be focused on violent individuals and groups. The right to have “extreme” or “radical” political or religious views is protected by the First Amendment and quintessentially American, as even our nation’s founders were considered “radicals” in their day. This re-naming suggests that the U.S. government views Muslims and Islam as a threat and will place greater scrutiny on law-abiding American Muslims who are simply exercising their constitutionally protected rights to free expression and religious worship.
Muslim Advocates and other civil rights groups have repeatedly expressed concerns that the office has always unfairly focused on the Muslim community even though data driven studies show that non-Muslims carry out the majority of extremist violence in the United States. Whether under the name “Countering Violent Extremism,” or the newly bigoted “Countering Islamic Extremism,” focusing the bulk of the office’s efforts on American Muslim communities at the expense of addressing the larger and truly diverse threat of extremist violence facing our nation makes us less safe and perpetuates the false perception that Islam is a special threat to America. As a result of this false perception, many members of the public have come to regard their own Muslim neighbors with suspicion, often voicing bigoted, anti-Muslim views and, sometimes, carrying out anti-Muslim hate crimes at historically high levels.