Dems decry Trump plan to focus counter-extremism program on Islam

Democrat U.S. senators have condemned President Donald Trump’s plan to alter the Countering Violent Extremism program to focus more on Islamic threats.

In a letter sent to Trump’s cabinet secretaries Thursday, Senators Brian Schatz, Cory Booker and 10 others said that revamping the program to omit non-Islamic terror groups “would severely damage our credibility with foreign allies and partners as an honest broker in the fight against violent extremism, and prove divisive in communities across our country,” Reuters reports.

The CVE program has tried to address the root causes for violent extremism of many different kinds within the U.S. by helping community groups develop prevention efforts and providing them grants and other resources.

It was reported last week that Trump’s administration desired to change the name “Countering Violent Extremism” to “Countering Radical Islamic Extremism” or simply “Countering Islamic Extremism.”

Five sources reportedly said that the name change reflects Trump’s broader goal to omit from the program non-Islamic terrorist groups, such as white supremacist groups, who have also been responsible for attacks in the country.

Focusing the program only on Islamic threats would “alienate Muslim organizations and individuals in the United States,” the senators continued in the letter.

“It will also put U.S. service members, diplomats, development practitioners, and citizens traveling the world at significant risk, and will increase the likelihood of more attacks,” the letter said, and could “violate constitutional protections and the rights of American citizens.”

Reuters reports sources working closely with the Department of Homeland Security on the CVE program have said that DHS officials recently met to discuss Trump’s proposed changes.

At least three non-profits have already declined to fund the CVE since Trump took office, citing the proposed changes to the program and Trump’s executive order intended to temporarily ban citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States.

Press Secretary Sean Spicer has declined to comment on specific changes, but noted during a briefing that the program’s initial focus was supposed to have been “rooting out radical Islamic terrorism.”

Former DHS employees told Reuters the program was not conceived with the goal to focus solely on Islamic terrorism, although it had been criticized for being too focused on Muslims and also for being ineffective.