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12 December, 2016 00:00 00 AM
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Counter terror policies must deliver nuance

When Muslim Americans were brought up in the context of the presidential debates between Hillary Clinton and Trump, they were often mentioned as parts of the counterterrorism paradigm
H A Hellyer
Counter terror policies must deliver nuance

One of the most disturbing things that Donald Trump, the president-elect of the United States, has suggested is a ban on Muslims from entering the country. No one is entirely sure about what's going to happen, but as the day approaches for  Trump to be sworn in as president, his ideas have to be turned into policies. He might learn from the United Kingdom, America's closest ally in the western world, in terms of what 

not to do. 
Any policy pertaining to Muslims is going to be primarily the job of the Department of Homeland Security. Josh Rogin reported in The Washington Post earlier this week that the main contenders for leading on that issue are Michael McCaul (a Republican congressman from Texas), retired Marine Gen John Kelly and Kansas politician Kris Kobach. 
This week,  McCaul made his pitch on how to put the ban into effect. All things considered, it was markedly more nuanced than what  Trump had suggested, but that wasn’t particularly difficult. Early reports about the speech suggested that it bore some similarities to the UK government’s Prevent policy, which seeks to empower particular domestic Muslim British voices against extremism. The flaws in the approach in the UK are in danger of being repeated and amplified in the US.
When Muslim Americans were brought up in the context of the presidential debates between Hillary Clinton and Trump, they were often mentioned as parts of the counterterrorism paradigm – either as part of the problem or solution. All too often, the recognition of Muslim Americans as simply American citizens was lacking. That is especially true of the Trump camp. 
In the UK, the Prevent part of the counterterrorism strategy from the early 2000s has suffered from two basic problems. One is some faulty policies embedded within the wider strategy. Unfortunately, even in those parts of the strategy that are sounder than rest, the perception of the policy within the target community is terrible. 
Evidence seems to suggest that there is a large swell of dissent from within the Muslim British community against the Prevent strategy. It is certainly deeply controversial, which is why it has led politicians in Britain to voice concern about the efficacy of the 
strategy. 
Indeed, many politicians have called for the policy to be completely replaced with something more practical and workable within communities. The key problem is determining what that alternative is supposed to look like and there has been little discussion on that matter. 
Human rights groups and Muslim organisations reported that they began to be contacted about reports of attacks on Muslims immediately after the election results were confirmed. Women wearing hijabs were harassed on the streets; children at school were told they were not welcome; Islamic spaces were vandalised. Many more said they were intimidated by the uncertainty of their futures in a country where open racism and Islamophobia is apparently becoming more acceptable. 
American Muslims were not the only targets. At the Ivy League University of Pennsylvania, at least 100 incoming first-year African-American students on the campus social media platform GroupMe were added to a group called "Nigger Lynching" and sent racist threats and historical pictures of murdered black people hanging from trees by users with names such as "Daddy Trump."
Oussama Jammal, Secretary General of the US Council of Muslim Organisation in Washington, said he was in contact with the FBI to investigate these hate crimes. He said families had called and emailed his organisation to report the attacks and asking for advice on how to respond.
"Children woke up [to the news] and asked: Are we going to be enslaved again? Muslim children asked are we going to be deported," he said. "Muslim [pupils] were called names and bullied at school, and told they would be kicked out. Children are truly living in fear, and so are their parents."
A mosque at New York University’s Brooklyn campus was vandalised within hours of Mr Trump’s election. Although there was no significant physical damage, the university’s Muslim community was left shaken and angered after someone wrote "Trump" across the door of the school’s mosque.
RJ Khalaf, the treasurer of the Muslim Students Association at NYU, said they feared for their safety, particularly hijab-wearing girls, who are easily identifiable as Muslim. 
It is not that British Muslims are somehow ambivalent about extremism. They suffer from it just as others do. In fact, they suffer more due to the added repercussions of being associated with extremism. The same is true for American Muslim communities. When the US is attacked by extremists, Muslim Americans feel the effect as much as non-Muslim Americans do. But then Muslims face a backlash from populist Islamophobes. The ambivalence that many of them have about counterterrorism is about what is identified as problematic and what is a genuine threat. For example, religious conservatism in Muslim communities are often identified as enabling extremism, even though data shows otherwise. 
Moreover, non-representative voices who are uncritical of the political establishment but are given media space to decry Muslim communities, already figure greatly in American media. After  Trump’s victory, nearly all Muslim groups and individuals expressed concern about hate crimes against their community from bigots who openly supported  Trump. Yet a good deal of media space was provided to Muslim voices who praised  Trump and ignored his incendiary remarks about Muslims, even though they had no currency in their own communities. 

The writer is a senior non-resident fellow at the Atlantic Council in Washington and the Royal United Services Institute in London

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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