In September 2014, United States Attorney General Eric Holder announced that a new counterterrorism initiative, Countering Violent Extremism (CVE), would be tested in three pilot cities across the US. Minneapolis, Minnesota is one of the three pilot cities for the new CVE initiative and is home to the largest Somali immigrant population in the world as well as a very large and diverse multi-ethnic Muslim community. Since 2008, when several young Somali-American Muslims left the US to participate in armed operations in Somalia, the community has suffered in an environment of extreme suspicion and distrust.
The surveillance of Muslim-Americans as a key component of American counterterrorism efforts has been the subject of both legal and academic analysis. Reports of spying, infiltration, and harassment have become commonplace in recent years. While these reports are often accompanied by challenges to the legality of the programs used to collect information, very little if any scholarship exists on how American Islamic organizations respond to this intense level of policing.
This research project examines the narrative generated by Muslim organizations in Minnesota, in response to heightened counterterrorism initiatives – particularly CVE – to assess the impact of counterterrorism programs on American Islamic organizations and to highlight the role of Islamophobia as it informs various aspects of such initiatives.
Initial findings suggest the presence of an accommodationist narrative among several organizations, but further investigation is required to explore the questions that raises. For example: How prevalent is that narrative? Is it indicative of a shift in organizational values? Is it an organizational strategy to appease law enforcement while allowing “genuine” work to continue unhampered?
“Strategic Implementation Plan for Empowering Local Partners to Prevent Violent Extremism in the United States” https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/sip-final.pdf
As a community member actively engaged in this issue, I am frequently invited to attend briefings, discussions and public announcements dealing with CVE. This particular set of root causes of violent extremism was presented several times publicly from October, 2014 to my last observation in March, 2015.