Young Muslim Collective hosted a Resisting Surveillance Forum on October 13 at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. “Resisting Surveillance” is a series of forums planned for five cities where communities have been targeted by the Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) program. The project is sponsored by a collaborative of groups including Defending Rights & Dissent, and led by the Muslim Justice League.
In 2014, Minneapolis was designated a pilot city for the CVE program, which is focused on the city’s large Somali-American community. Young Muslim Collective (YMC) has been organizing against the program for over a year, educating the community and identifying how the program is being implemented. They describe the program as one that “targets Muslim youth for surveillance and thought policing based on vague and unfounded theories of radicalization. The Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) program cultivates faith leaders, teachers and health providers to serve as informants to law enforcement.”
YMC is Somali-American youth who see that the divisive policy is tearing apart an already vulnerable community. So they brought together leaders on CVE who have experience in the field with the program, to discuss the effects of surveillance on their communities. Over 50 community members and several candidates for local office attended the forum, which was live streamed by Unicorn Riot (the video is available here).
The speakers were:
Burhan Mohumed, a senior member of YMC, who also organizes to support political prisoners.
Jess Sundin, a longtime anti war activist who co-founded the Minneapolis Anti War Committee, and co-founder of the Committee to Stop FBI Repression (after she was the target of an FBI sting operation).
Ayaan Dahir, a member of YMC and RISE, Reviving Islamic Sisterhood for Empowerment .
Fatema Ahmad, an engineer turned organizer working against CVE in North Carolina and Boston. She is the deputy director of the Muslim Justice League.
Alim, a Senior Caseworker from CAGE, an independent advocacy group in the UK empowering communities impacted by the war on terror. He joined the meeting via google hangouts.
The speakers drew parallels between CVE and other repressive programs and tactics utilized by the FBI, from COINTELPRO, to the FBI’s surveillance and infiltration of activist groups recently.
CVE is especially pernicious because it is introduced to communities as a program that will provide needed resources such as after school programs. But the program is based on a national security model, and seeks to ‘educate’ community members on how to identify someone vulnerable to radicalization. The program is based on junk science the panelists said, and stigmatizes and divides the community.
“Only when the government thinks we can be radicalized do we get the resources any other kids would have.” – Ayan #RSF
— Young Muslim Collec. (@YMC_MN) October 13, 2017
The panelists noted that many progressives are suggesting that CVE should be used to combat white supremacists. Fatema Ahmad cautioned against that. “We aren’t looking for equal opportunity oppression,” she said. She also noted that the CVE program, which has exclusively targeted the Muslim community, is based on white supremacy.
The CVE program in the US is based on a British program called PREVENT, which divides the Muslim community into two categories: moderate and extreme. PREVENT promotes a narrative of good Muslim/bad Muslim using 22 traits or identifiers. But in sum, a ‘good Muslim’ agrees with the government, so the program criminalizes dissent. Like the CVE program, PREVENT includes other forms of ‘extremism’ in its sights, such as anti fracking, and pro-Palestine activists.