By Nolan Brey
The Department of Homeland Security’s website describes an initiative called, “Countering Violent Extremism.”
The goal of this initiative is to “understand violent extremism, support local communities, and support local law enforcement.” The DHS aims to do this by identifying what risk factors lead to extremist ideologies, and to provide outreach programs to local law enforcement agencies and community centers.
These outreach programs aim to provide resources to communities and local law enforcement agencies to prevent people from joining extremist groups. They may also be used to gather intelligence about existing organizations and potential enlistees.
At Bemidji State, opponents of this program have tried to proactively prevent its implementation here.
The BSU Amnesty International organization introduced a resolution into the Student Senate which would prevent such a community outreach project from taking place at BSU out of anticipation that this program could be expanded in the future. The resolution is currently tabled, but it could be adopted or rejected at a later time.
According to Amnesty International, the program stigmatizes Muslim and Somali people, which spreads fear about them.
In January of 2015, the Minneapolis Star Tribune ran an article stating that “FBI agents running outreach programs with Somali communities in the Twin Cities were instructed to spy on community members believed to be prone to radicalization.” The agents allege that they never complied with the objective, but nothing is mentioned about agents in five other major metropolitan cities, which had similar programs.
The American Civil Liberties Union has criticized the program for unfairly singling out Muslims, calling it a “Trojan Horse.” There are concerns that the program stigmatizes Muslims as terrorists.
“If we don’t stand against the program from the beginning, support for it could grow and it could affect more communities and schools. This resolution is a good preemptive measure.” said Eugene Strowbridge, Amnesty International.