The following statement is by Heidi Beirich, director of the SPLC’s Intelligence Project.
“The changes that President Trump is reportedly considering to the government’s Countering Violent Extremism program are dangerously misguided, for two important reasons.
“First, by changing the name to Countering Violent Islamic Extremism, he is once again singling out a particular religion in violation of our fundamental values and is undermining the very intent of the program. The change will play straight into the hands of terrorist groups like ISIS and al Qaeda by helping them portray our country as being at war with Islam as they recruit young people into their perverse ideology.
“It also will further fray the bonds of trust between law enforcement and Muslim-American communities, a trust that is central to the program itself. We know through long experience that Muslim communities are part of the solution, not part of the problem. A program whose very name implicates their religion will only serve to alienate the very people we need to reach.
“Second, the threat from terrorists who falsely claim to represent Islam is not the only one we face.
“In recent years, we’ve seen a series of deadly terrorist attacks from homegrown extremists inspired by white supremacist or antigovernment ideologies, such as the massacre at the Charleston church in 2015. But now it appears that President Trump wants the government to stop its efforts to prevent terrorism by far-right extremists.
“This is dangerous and unacceptable. Sunday’s attack on a mosque in Quebec City should remind us, once again, that our government must not let down its guard against the threat posed by non-Islamic extremists indoctrinated into the ideology of hate.
“We can only surmise, given that Trump has repeatedly taken cues and talking points from anti-Muslim extremists and that his chief strategist is a champion of the white nationalist movement, that this is a politically motivated decision. The bottom line is that rather than making us safer, it increases the risk."