The resignation of a key Obama DHS holdover, George Selim, has left many liberals seething as the department has begun to incorporate Trump policies. One example of this could be found in Monday’s edition of The Atlantic where contributing editor Peter Beinart mourned the end of an era. Praising Selim as a stalwart conservative Republican who had wrongfully been misjudged, Beinart went on to denounce key Trump officials such as Sebastian Gorka for their newfound influence. Explaining away the administration’s policies as “psychological ghettoization,” his article concluded that the Trump administration is, in fact, doing “exactly what ISIS and al-Qaeda want.”
"...Selim’s departure likely heralds a wider gulf between Muslim communities and the federal government. Zaki Barzinji, who served as the White House liaison to Muslim Americans in Obama’s final year, notes that “even Muslim groups that were critical of CVE felt they could talk to him, express their criticisms. They’re going to be completely cut off now.” Abed Ayoub of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee agreed. “We didn’t buy” CVE, he said, but “at least there was the communication with the community. We didn’t agree on most things but hearing our voice was important.” Now, he argues, American Muslim activists won’t even bother to talk to the federal government. When the Trump administration does something they dislike, they’ll move immediately to protests and lawsuits. Salam Al-Marayati, president of the Muslim Public Affairs Committee, argued that with Selim’s departure, “the idea of community partnership has become obsolete.”
Once upon a time, Americans took pride in claiming that America’s culture of integration and religious tolerance made the United States less susceptible to jihadist radicalization than countries in Europe. Selim’s departure is another sign that this self-congratulatory story is out of date. The Trump administration, Al-Marayati told me a few months ago, is “building a European model,” a model of “psychological ghettoization.” Which is exactly what ISIS and al-Qaeda want.
The Bush and Obama administration’s outreach to Muslim communities was often clumsy and fraught. And Selim, who oversaw much of that outreach, had plenty of critics. But even so, Barzinji worries: “We won’t know what we had until it’s gone.”
In addition to attacking the policies of the Trump administration, Beinart also went after Mark Levin’s Conservative Review which had broken the story of the Selim resignation. Beinart pushed back against several of Conservative Review’s claims such as Selim having hosted hundreds of meetings of Muslim groups with ties to radical Islam. He even went as far as to question the very idea that Muslims have been the primary source of domestic terrorism in recent years.
From the beginning, CVE encountered two very different forms of opposition. The first was from conservatives who saw it as politically correct way to avoid calling Islamic terrorism by its name. In June 2016, Senator Ted Cruz declared that by adopting such “meaningless policies as the ‘countering violent extremism’ initiative,” the Obama administration was “willfully blinding itself to the real threat.” After Trump’s election, Sebastian Gorka declared that, “I predict with absolute certitude, the jettisoning of concepts such as CVE.”
Ironically, however, CVE also met opposition from Muslim organizations, which insisted that despite its ecumenical veneer, it still treated domestic terrorism as a primarily Muslim phenomenon, even though the data suggested otherwise. Thus, some activists argued, the program stigmatized Muslims as potential terrorists rather than treating them like any other group of Americans.
The Conservative Review article that reported Selim’s resignation claimed that he had “admitted to hosting hundreds of meetings with officials from the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR),” a claim Selim disputed to me. But what’s truly ironic about the charge is that CAIR strongly opposed CVE. Dawud Walid, executive director of the group’s Michigan chapter, told me that “the outreach Mr. Selim was involved in was just soft intelligence gathering and CVE in and of itself was still a program that overwhelmingly focused on American Muslim community even though it claimed not to be.”