We Were Wrong on CVE

December 28, 2020

O you who have believed, be persistently standing firm in justice, witnesses for God, even if it be against yourselves or parents and relatives . . . . (Quran 4:135)

For over 30 years, we at the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) have been guided by the abiding belief that acting in the cause of justice is not only moral and righteous, but a divine imperative. In that sense, we have always viewed our advocacy as an active practice of our Islamic faith—a faith that commands all Muslims to stand up for the marginalized, to challenge unjust power structures, and to protect the most vulnerable amongst us.

Standing for justice means acknowledging past mistakes and reinvigorating our commitment to those we serve and with whom we find common cause. To that end, we acknowledge without qualification that our positions related to Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) policies were wrong. Our goal had always been to eliminate or change the most problematic and harmful aspects of government CVE policies. Some of those efforts were successful but did not ultimately eclipse the problematic nature of CVE itself.  In an effort to deliver a positive result for American Muslims, we instead ended up raising questions about our intentions with respect to government intrusion into our religious and community spaces.

Read our CVE FAQ's.

We must now acknowledge our errors in attempting to improve a policy that unfairly and incorrectly singled out our community. We understand that our attempts to mitigate the harms posed by CVE programs were overshadowed by the unjust concept of CVE itself, which is built on  a deeply flawed theoretical foundation. And while we consulted, discussed, and deliberated with many friends and allies who expressed this sentiment to us years ago, we were overly optimistic in our ability to create positive change from within the system. In hindsight, this is where we should have changed course.

Notwithstanding our past mistakes, MPAC—with the lessons learned from our CVE work—is recommitting to closely scrutinizing government-sponsored programs that mask underlying systems of unjust and discriminatory surveillance. We commit to fight harder against government intrusion in the religious spaces of Muslim communities. We oppose as unconstitutional and unjust any efforts by government to encroach on theological issues within Muslim communities by trying to define who is a “good” Muslim and who is a “bad” one. We similarly oppose any policy that singles out Muslim communities or that that promotes debunked radicalization theories. Most importantly, we are recommitting ourselves to building community strength as a precondition to government engagement. Our advocacy efforts are only as strong as our bond with the ummah.

We will continue to fight tirelessly in the cause of justice. In doing so, we will redouble our efforts to build community unity and trust, which our engagement on CVE hampered.

We do this not only for the benefit of American Muslims, but because enacting policies grounded in the divine traits of equality, justice, and mercy will benefit all Americans and strengthen our country.



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