Arab Times

Program debates Europe efforts:



Organizers of a US pilot program designed to root out homegrown extremists are looking to lessons learned in Europe, where government programs to confront radicaliza­tion have been in place for years but continue to generate debate.

Boston’s version of the Countering Violent Extremism program brought in experts Tuesday to discuss efforts in the United Kingdom and Germany that have brought youths and others vulnerable to extremist ideology into family counseling before they could join the Islamic State or other militant groups.

But Muslim activists attending the event questioned the science behind the overseas efforts and argued that trying to identify possible extremists based on their comments or actions would trample on free speech and other basic American civil rights.

“We have deep, fundamenta­l concerns because of a lack of empirical evidence that you can predict criminal behavior based on certain actions or beliefs,” said Shannon Erwin of the Muslim Justice League.

The Obama administra­tion launched the Countering Violent Extremism program more than a year ago with pilot efforts in Boston, Los Angeles and Minneapoli­s. The programs have rolled out slowly, in large part because of concerns from activists that they effectivel­y amount to government surveillan­ce of Muslims.

Event speakers Tuesday noted that sharing Islamic State propaganda on social media or believing that holy war is the truest form of Islam, for example, represent real warning signs of extremism.

“You’ve got to be realistic about this,” said Rashad Ali, a senior fellow with the London-based Institute for Strategic Dialogue. “And being realistic is not putting your head in the sand and denying the facts that are in front of us.”

US Attorney for Massachuse­tts Carmen Ortiz, whose office is heading the Boston version of the Countering Violent

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