THE MAGAZINE

Building a Tenuous Trust

By Matthew Harwood

Dr. Stevan Weine, professor of psychiatry at the University of Illinois at Chicago, who has studied radicalization within the Somali refugee communities of Minneapolis-St. Paul, believes that parents can play a key role, noting cases of parents who either helped get their children off the path of violent radicalization or notified the police when their children had gone jihadi. OMA agrees, noting that when he flirted with jihadism in college, his father and other Muslim scholars in the community convinced him that his jihadi impulses were not the Islamic legal tradition.

Weine cautions against government oversecuritizing CVE, especially because many immigrant and refugee Muslim populations in the United States come from countries where police were violent, oppressive tools of the regime in power. Weine notes the case of Mohamed Osman Mohamed, the 20-year-old Somali-American who was arrested in November 2010 for planning to bomb a Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Portland, Oregon. Aware of his son’s radicalization as well as his family, educational, work, and substance-abuse problems, Mohamed’s father reported him to the FBI. But instead of getting Mohamed psychiatric help, the FBI set up a sting and arrested him.

Decisions like these to use the criminal justice system when there is no imminent threat to the community could backfire, notes Weine. “These risks could be compounded because one action of ‘hard counterterrorism’ can feed community suspicions that government cannot be trusted.”

Law enforcement surveillance of even cooperative Muslim communities and the scandal over Islamophobic FBI training could lead to failure for the White House’s CVE strategy. “If the administration sincerely wants to build community resilience among American Muslims, it’s probably not a very good idea to spy on the very community leaders [who] are trying to combat violent extremism,” OMA says. “These sorts of tactics create a chilling effect in deradicalization efforts.”
DeWitt says that the government is starting to move away from that more law-enforcement-oriented approach. In the future, he says, CVE will be more about prevention and early intervention rather than relying disproportionately on arrest and prosecution.
 

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