Although Americans are more likely to be killed by homegrown right-wing extremists – or lightning, falling furniture or even armed toddlers – than by Islamist terrorists, five people briefed on the matter told Reuters the Trump administration wants to rename the “Countering Violent Extremism” (CVE) program “Countering Islamic Extremism” or “Countering Radical Islamic Extremism.”
More than just the name would change. According to the sources, the program would no longer target white supremacist or other extremist groups who have carried out bombings and shootings in the United States. The change is in line with campaign rhetoric from Trump and his supporters – some of whom now occupy influential positions within the new administration, which often promised or advocated policies and actions critics from across the political spectrum have called discriminatory or Islamophobic.
CVE is a public-private partnership aimed at terrorism deterrence, involving community outreach, education programs, counter-messaging campaigns and other initiatives in cooperation with corporations including Facebook and Google. Its website currently reflects its Obama-era focus on combating all violent extremism, noting that “violent extremist threats come from a range of groups and individuals, including domestic terrorists and homegrown violent extremists in the United States, as well as international terrorist groups like al-Qaeda and ISIL (Islamic State).”
Supporters of CVE said they worried Trump’s effective redefinition of violent extremism to include only Muslims would have, similarly to his U.S. travel ban for seven mostly Muslim nations, serious consequences that would undermine the president’s professed goal and inauguration pledge to “eradicate radical Islamic terrorist groups completely from the face of the Earth.” Critics wonder how Muslims will be expected to trust and cooperate with a government that bans their co-religionists, or worse, their own friends and families, and that officially does not consider violence against them to be as injurious or worthy of fighting as violence committed in the name of Islam.
There has been a surge in the number of incidents in which Muslims, and those mistaken for them, have been harassed or attacked, with hundreds of reports of Islamophobic attacks since Trump’s election, including a Canadian mosque massacre carried out by a white nationalist who “liked” Donald Trump’s Facebook page. However, Trump has said little or nothing about this alarming spike in anti-Muslim violence.