The Trump White House continues to support a failed counter-extremism office in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that engages fringe Islamic activists while rejecting Muslim reformers.
The promotion of “Countering Violent Extremism” (CVE) was initiated by the Obama administration as an approach to stopping radicalization from within vulnerable communities. CVE resources mostly focused on Islamic radicalism, but did not officially recognize the Islamic component due to the former administration’s politically correct approach.
On Thursday, the House Oversight Committee held a hearing on “Combatting Homegrown Extremism.” One of the panelists at the hearing, George Selim, is the director of “Countering Violent Extremism” at DHS. His office was established by the Obama administration in 2015. Before Selim went over to DHS, he was a lead figure in the National Security Council, working alongside Ben Rhodes and Susan Rice as the White House director for community partnerships.
In his position, Selim admitted to holding “hundreds” of meetings with representatives from the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a Muslim advocacy group originally founded as a Muslim Brotherhood front group to support Hamas, the U.S.-designated terrorist organization. The shocking revelations documenting the extensive relationship between the Obama White House and CAIR came as a surprise to the law enforcement community. At the time, FBI policy had banned meeting with CAIR due to its nefarious ties.
Instead of calling for reform within the Islamic world (a track that several Muslim world leaders and segments of the Trump administration now advocate), the Obama White House under Selim (in both his positions on the NSC and now at DHS) sought to protect Islam from the jihadi groups that wage terror in the name of the religion.
Selim told a House committee in 2016: “To be successful in our homeland security efforts, we have to underscore and reinforce the fact that ISIL does not represent Islam and cannot justify its barbaric terrorism with twisted interpretations of one of the world’s most prominent religions.”
Well-informed families and communities are our best defense against terrorist ideologies, which represent the current threat from ISIL propaganda,’’ Selim continued in September. “Within this context, working with communities to prevent radicalization to violence has become imperative.”
So, according to Selim’s logic, Muslim reformers are in the wrong, because they propose (like Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi) that a conversation must be had about Islamic doctrine as a whole.
As Andrew McCarthy explains at National Review, “CVE delusionally forbids the conclusion that radical Islamic ideology has any causative effect on terrorist plotting.”
The Muslim Brotherhood believes in essentially the same end-goal as ISIS: the installation of a worldwide Islamic caliphate. The group actually acts as a gateway to violent jihad. For example, the leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, and current al-Qaida chief Ayman al-Zawahiri were once members of the Muslim Brotherhood.
“The Trump Administration needs to understand that countering violent extremism as a policy runs against their vision of tougher counterterrorism. As long as the Trump Administration allows Obama holdovers to conduct outreach to Islamists like CAIR under the guise of CVE, the President’s efforts to make America safe again will fail,” Kyle Shideler of the Center for Security Policy tells Conservative Review. “Returning to a strong counterterrorism policy that focuses on solid intelligence and police work requires shutting down the White House CVE effort.”
The CVE strategy is dangerous for two reasons. Not only does it quash discussion over the connection between Islam and terror, but it empowers radical groups like CAIR to act as the voice of the Muslim community. This dangerous blend results in a policy concoction of political correctness and the empowerment of Islamic supremacists that threatens to undermine American national security. If the Trump administration fails to rid itself of CVE, it will succumb to an America-last strategy that has shown no documented successes in curbing terror and extremism.