Min­nesota groups press ahead de­spite de­bates

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Stephen Mon­temayor

MIN­NEAPO­LIS» Do­mes­tic ef­forts to curb home­grown ter­ror­ism are un­der fresh scru­tiny from the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion and Congress, plac­ing Min­neapo­lis at the cen­ter of a new na­tional de­bate over whether they are work­ing — or should even con­tinue.

Early sig­nals from Wash­ing­ton point to a greater em­pha­sis on law en­force­ment, with some elected of­fi­cials say­ing the fed­eral gov­ern­ment should use its core anti-ex­trem­ism pro­gram to ex­pand in­tel­li­gence gath­er­ing in im­mi­grant and refugee com­mu­ni­ties.

At a re­cent hear­ing of the U.S. House Over­sight Com­mit­tee, Chair­man Ron DeSan­tis, R-Fla., sin­gled out Min­neapo­lis’ So­mali com­mu­nity and called the city “ground zero for ter­ror­ist re­cruit­ment.” DeSan­tis, who vis­ited Min­nesota in De­cem­ber, railed against ex­ist­ing fed­eral pol­icy for not prop­erly fo­cus­ing on “rad­i­cal Is­lamic ex­trem­ism.”

But that phi­los­o­phy has out­raged com­mu­nity lead­ers who work di­rectly with So­mali and Mus­lim youths. In the Twin Cities, some lo­cal groups have backed away from Coun­ter­ing Vi­o­lent Ex­trem­ism, or CVE, a $10 mil­lion grant pro­gram ad­min­is­tered by the Depart­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity. Min­neapo­lis’ Ka Joog, a So­mali non­profit, rejected a nearly $500,000 grant af­ter Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump signed his con­tro­ver­sial travel ban last win­ter. An­other lo­cal non­profit, Youth­prise, vowed to avoid money “from sources fo­cused on the anti-rad­i­cal­iza­tion” of So­mali youths, cit­ing “height­ened com­mu­nity con­cerns.”

Some ter­ror­ism re­searchers have echoed those con­cerns. The House hear­ing per­pet­u­ated “the false no­tion that Mus­lims present a sin­gu­lar ter­ror­ist threat,” ac­cord­ing to the Bren­nan Cen­ter for Jus­tice at New York Univer­sity School of Law. Schol­ars there cited re­search show­ing that nearly three-quar­ters of all deadly ter­ror at­tacks since 9/11 were au­thored by far­right do­mes­tic ex­trem­ists — a ques­tion raised again by Satur­day’s bomb­ing at the Dar Al Fa­rooq Is­lamic Cen­ter in Bloom­ing­ton.

One re­sult of this clash is that CVE now en­joys few “built-in ad­vo­cates,” said Sea­mus Hughes, deputy di­rec­tor of Ge­orge Wash­ing­ton Univer­sity’s Pro­gram on Ex­trem­ism.

“On one side of the po­lit­i­cal spec­trum … CVE is seen as thought-polic­ing and stig­ma­tiz­ing,” Hughes tes­ti­fied at the July 27 hear­ing. “On the other side, it is con­sid­ered too soft.”

One ben­e­fi­ciary of the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s ap­proach is the Hen­nepin County Sher­iff’s Of­fice. It missed the cut when CVE grants were first an­nounced in Jan­uary but will now re­ceive $347,600 for “ter­ror­ism preven­tion train­ing and en­gage­ment.”

In a re­cent in­ter­view, Hen­nepin County Sher­iff Rich Stanek said he wel­comed the new ad­min­is­tra­tion’s aim at “se­cu­ri­tiz­ing” CVE. “Law en­force­ment has a role to play in com­mu­nity outreach,” Stanek said. “Even at a traf­fic stop, a re­la­tion­ship is be­ing built. And that’s se­cu­ri­tiz­ing. The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion saw it for what it is.”

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