Cities take anti-extremism efforts to White House
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Prosecutors and civic leaders from several U.S. cities will convene at a White House summit this week to discuss ways of countering violent extremism, including how to shut off terrorist recruiting pipelines that have sent Western fighters to conflicts in the Middle East and Africa.
The U.S. attorney’s offices from Minneapolis, Los Angeles and Boston will discuss the progress of pilot programs in those cities to counter the causes of radicalization, particularly in immigrant populations, in hopes of breaking the recruiting cycle.
Overcoming distrust has been a challenge for federal officials. The Los Angeles program has drawn criticism from civil rights groups, including the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Haroon Manjlai, a spokesman for CAIR’s Los Angeles chapter, said the group is worried that the program will infringe on Muslims’ freedom of speech and religion and might hurt their public image.
CAIR’s national office issued a statement ahead of the summit questioning the effectiveness of programs closely tied to a government that many Muslims don’t trust. “Credible community voices who are not viewed as ‘being in the government’s pocket’ are necessary,” CAIR said.
The radicalization of Muslim youth has been a major concern in Minnesota, where more than 22 Somali men have gone to Somalia to fight for the radical group al-Shabab. Several others have gone or tried to go to Syria to fight for the Islamic State group.
U.S. Attorney Andy Luger will lead a delegation of about 15 people from Minnesota, including law enforcement officials and Somali community leaders, to Wednesday’s meeting.
Minnesota’s program gets its formal launch next month. Luger told The Associated Press that key elements developed with Somali community leaders include more youth programming, more mentors, expanded job opportunities and job training, more dialogue between youth and religious leaders and help affording college.
Luger said his office will also help develop “intervention models” to help parents, relatives and others step in if they suspect a loved one is susceptible to being recruited.
The U.S. attorneys’ offices for Los Angeles and Boston declined to speak in detail about their programs ahead of the summit.
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