THE MAGAZINE

Building a Tenuous Trust

By Matthew Harwood

Chuck DeWitt, a spokesman for the Major Cities Chiefs Association (MCCA), says his organization is currently working on a DHS-funded program, as part of the White House strategy, to do just that. Currently the Los Angeles Police Department and the National Consortium for Advanced Policing is developing a pilot program to train executive and frontline officers in CVE. Part of that training, he says, will task outreach officers with providing Muslim community leaders and parents with the signs of radicalization.

But this radicalization monitoring is a balancing act for both the government and the community, says Muslim-American activist in the Washington, D.C., area, who wished to speak anonymously (I’ll refer to him as OMA). He does deradicalization work online and in person and says those who lead such efforts cannot be publicly associated with the federal government or law enforcement because it will contaminate communications with those they’re trying to help. “The more open the relationship is with law enforcement, the more the community leaders with that relationship will be viewed as 'sell outs,’” he explains. But he adds, “Relationships can be built in a more subtle manner.”

OMA adds there must be a back channel to law enforcement when at-risk individuals won’t reject jihadi. “When deradicalization efforts fail and the individual begins to actively take steps to engage in violence, then law enforcement needs to be notified,” he says.

Years earlier, OMA struck up an online conversation with Samir Khan, the North Carolina man and publisher of the English-language jihadi magazine Inspire. Khan died last September in an American drone strike in Yemen that targeted and killed Anwar al-Awlaki, a jihadist preacher involved with al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, who was also imam at Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center from 2001 to 2002 before going jihadi. Khan, he says, is a perfect example of someone who should be turned in to law enforcement. In 2008, he decided not to contact the FBI. Today he regrets that decision.

Abdul-Malik also says that the federal government needs to work with online deradicalizers so that these activists do not come under suspicion when they cruise social networks or jihadi forums looking for at-risk youth to engage. According to Abdul-Malik, these activists are like Batman, and they need a Commissioner Gordon to protect them while they do their deprogramming online.

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