Bayan Claremont, an Islamic Graduate School in California started in 2011, has become the fourth Muslim educational institution to turn down hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal funding intended to help fight extremism, a decision they say is due to President Trump’s policies.
On Friday the board at Bayan Claremont turned down $800,000 in federal funds, approved under a program instated during the Obama administration, due to “Trump’s rhetoric singling out Islamic extremism and his travel ban”. This is the fourth Muslim school to turn down funds under this program, which were intended to fight terrorism at the grassroots community level and help form a “new generation of Muslim community leaders”.
The school’s president, ironically named Jihad Turk, claimed the money would do more harm than good in the community. Turk said a portion of the money would have gone towards funding local nonprofits and “social justice work”.
At the Unity Productions Foundation of Potomac Falls, Virginia, officials said they would decline a grant of $396,585 to produce educational films challenging narratives supporting extremist ideologies and violent extremism “due to the changes brought by the new administration,” according to a private message to donors reviewed by The Associated Press.
And in Dearborn, Michigan, Leaders Advancing and Helping Communities said last week it was turning down $500,000 for youth-development and public-health programs because of the “current political climate.” Ka Joog, a leading Somali nonprofit organization in Minneapolis, also turned down $500,000 for its youth programs.
A U.S. official said the Trump administration has been discussing changing the Obama administration program’s name, established as a presidential strategy in 2011, to an iteration of “countering Islamic extremism.” The official, who has knowledge of the discussions, was not authorized to speak publicly about the proposal and spoke on condition of anonymity.
The Muslim schools and institutions deciding to turn down federal funds claim they are doing so as a symbol of protest against President Trump’s aggressive anti-terrorism policies, which includes his travel ban on seven terrorism prone countries. Although the funds would have been used for a good cause, allegedly to combat terror and prevent younger Muslims from falling prey to extremism, it appears making a political statement is far more important than contributing to the cause of fighting terrorism.
Jihad Turk admits that he had concerns about the program under Obama since he felt there was no clear direction to fight extremism, with some claiming it contributed to government surveillance of Muslims, yet both he and other Islamic schools happily accepted the money before Trump came into office.
Turk said school officials already had reservations about the CVE strategy under Obama because they felt there’s no clear or proven pathway to violence for someone with a particular extreme ideology. The group went ahead, despite worries by some activists that the program equated to a government surveillance program, because it believed the previous administration wasn’t hostile to their faith.
But amid what Turk called Trump’s “fixation on the American Muslim community,” it became clear that the president’s actions were more than campaign-trail rhetoric, he said.
“It was becoming more and more apparent,” Turk said of Trump, “that he’s actually looking to carry out all the scary stuff he said.”
Fixation on the American Muslim community? Perhaps Jihad Turk is unaware that Trump’s travel ban had little to do with Islam, as it excluded the most populous Muslim countries of Indonesia and Saudi Arabia, and more to do with national security based on intelligence indicating seven countries that posed a serious security risk to America. These seven countries were also identified under the Obama administration, which Trump in turn used to impose a travel ban as a preventative measure.
If Jihad Turk considers keeping Americans safe from terror, combating extremism at the local level and more effective vetting practices for immigrants “scary stuff”, then it appears the funds need to be allocated to fighting radical ideals at the educational level as well as in the community.
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