Civil rights groups have put the kibosh on a plan by federal law enforcement officials to counsel young people prone to following radical Islamic ideology or joining terrorist groups. The outspoken groups protested the program, which was being headed up by the FBI, with claims that the program would further fuel the tensions between communities and law enforcement officers.
President of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee and Paramus, New Jersey resident, Samer Khalaf, said he is happy that the program was canceled. He and other critics of the program believe that Muslim Americans would be singled out, creating even more fear and distrust against them.
Plans were rolled out by the FBI in some U.S. cities as a way to combat terrorism, specifically from groups sympathetic to ISIS, but critics quickly voiced their concerns. One specific concern was that leaders from within the community would turn into government informants, thereby violating privacy laws.
Maya Berry of the Arab American Institute said that there were no good answers to the questions raised by critics. Concerns were also raised by government officials from within who were uncomfortable with stepping on the toes of community leaders with a federal program.
Others believe such a program might have prevented terrorists like Ahmad Rahimi who is charged with planting bombs in New York, Chelsea and Jersey Shore in September. “The key is you have to catch them early,” said John Cohen, a senior advisor at Rutgers University Institute for Emergency Preparedness and Homeland Security.
In the meantime, organizations like WISE UP are making their own efforts to educate young Muslims on the peaceful teachings of Islam. Daisy Khan, executive director of the Women’s Islamic Initiative for Spirituality and Equality (WISE) hopes to use education and peace to combat extremism. She believes it is the responsibility of the Muslim community to stop radical groups from exploiting the teachings of Islam and says that law enforcement should stick to homeland security.