Is it just an Islamist response to call programs preventing extremism part of the surveillance state — or is there more to it?
The answer may depend on which country we’re discussing and who is being brought to the table to have that discussion.
Over in the UK, Roundtable recently hosted a conversation that brought together four experts in the field — two of them Muslim — to talk about the progress and pitfalls of programs to prevent extremism.
While there is a concern in the UK to make sure prevention programming doesn’t unfairly spotlight Muslims, the same standards don’t necessarily apply in the U.S.
To date, there is no national umbrella organization in the U.S. for countering violent extremism as there is in the UK.
There is also no cohesive conversation on genuine concerns that can arise in such a space.
Yet in the U.S., instead of a conversation that moves the needle, we have Islamists and their allies setting the tone without participation from non-Islamist Muslims — meaning, there is no nuance or balance in that conversation.
The most recent of these narrow dialogues will be hosted by the Muslim Student Association on November 25, 2019, in Minneapolis Minnesota. Speakers include Jaylani Hussein, CAIR-Minnesota’s Director, and Hassan Shibly, CAIR-Florida’s Director.
Hussein is a known provocateur and disrupter in Minneapolis. In 2017, he refused to condemn the terrorist organization Hamas. Hussein operates a CAIR chapter which includes members who have openly lamented that Hitler wasn’t alive to “add more casualties” to the Holocaust.
Two months ago, Hussein faced further public humiliation after the U.S. Census Bureau backed out of a town hall with CAIR-Minnesota after public backlash.
The director of CAIR-Florida, Hassan Shibly, is on record as saying that Hezbollah isn’t a terrorist organization. He supports sharia law for Muslim-majority countries. Shibly also entertains conspiracy theories that the U.S. government and Israel frame Muslims for terrorism. He twice posted a video on his Facebook page titled, “Former American Terrorist Denounces American Terrorism.”
Shibly also believes nationalism is a plot against Islam.
All of this is to also underscore that:
(a) There’s a need to have critical conversations about counter extremism programs, but they will never be had in a meaningful way if they only occur in spaces dominated by Islamists, and
(b) There’s a difference between countering violent extremism (CVE) and preventing violent extremism (PVE). CVE focuses on deradicalization programs whereas PVE looks to prevent radicalization from targeting vulnerable populations in the first place.