DHS Secretary Applauds Safe Spaces Initiative

June 17, 2014

During a meeting of American Muslim and Syrian leaders in Chicago on Friday, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson applauded the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) for launching its community-based Safe Spaces Initiative.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), Rep. Bill Foster (D-IL) and more than 50 community leaders from an array of organizations, including MPAC, CAIR-Chicago and the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago (CIOGC), attended the quarterly roundtable hosted by the Department of Homeland Security Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Division and Zaher and Suzanne Sahloul of the Syrian American Medical Society.

MPAC’s President Salam Al-Marayati presented the Safe Spaces Initiative, a nationwide effort to foster healthy Muslim communities by utilizing what it calls the PIE Model, which is defined as prevention, intervention and ejection.

“There should be a wall of separation between community and law enforcement, where community leaders focus on theological, social and civic engagement – and law enforcement focuses on criminal investigations,” Al-Marayati told the leaders during his presentation. “In order to push out surveillance as a law enforcement tactic, we need to replace it with effective partnership programs.”

Secretary Johnson noted the importance and value of Safe Spaces, given the shared value of securing our communities and country. Violent acts of extremism should not be treated as isolated incidents, and it is collective efforts like Safe Spaces, in which greater partnership and inclusion are prioritized, that are key to eliminating them.  

Since its release in March, more than a dozen Muslim communities around the country have expressed interest in bringing the Safe Spaces Initiative and training to their communities. Additionally, MPAC is working to engage public officials and law enforcement to reform policies, which have relied on surveillance rather than intervention.

MPAC reminded officials in the room that, along with taking a stand on countering violent extremism, the American Muslim community has much to offer on a broad array of policy issues. MPAC applauds the Secretary’s support of Safe Spaces and his position that the American Muslim community must be viewed as a full partner in all areas of public discourse.

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