US government narrows its focus on combatting extremism by revamping grant programme

The $10 million government grant programme will now shift money to law enforcement offices

Saturday 24 June 2017 16:32
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President Donald Trump
President Donald Trump

The US government has narrowed the focus of a multimillion-dollar grant programme to concentrate on combatting Islamist extremism, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has announced.

The $10 million (£7.8 million) government grant programme will now shift money to law enforcement offices and away from groups that combat domestic extremism.

Donald Trump's administration reportedly wants to revamp the programme to focus solely on Islamist extremism.

A DHS spokesperson said the criteria for the grant has now changed to consider whether applicants could partner with law enforcement, had experience implementing counter-extremism programmes and would be able to continue after the grant expired.

“Top-scoring applications that were consistent with these priorities remained as awardees, while others did not," DHS spokesperson Lucy Martinez said.

Three local law enforcement offices in California, Washington state and Minnesota were among those to win grants and received a total of $1.2 million (£1 million).

A spokesman for the Alameda County Sheriff's Office in California said it would use the money to address extremism “on all fronts,” not just Islamist violence. Sergeant Ray Kelly cited violent clashes between right-wing and left-wing demonstrators that recently erupted in the city of Berkeley as an example of local extremism in the county.

Mr Kelly said the office would use the grant money to train officers to better recognize and address signs of alienation that make young people vulnerable to extremism, with the help of behavioral health counselors who are already on staff.

The revised list also omitted several original grantees who focused on domestic issues, such as Life After Hate, which tries to steer young people away from far-right extremism

The Muslim Public Affairs Council, a nonprofit that works to improve public understanding and policies that affect American Muslims, said the Trump administration revoked its nearly $400,000 (£310,000) grant because the organisation "did not meet the criteria of working with law enforcement to counter violent extremism."

Christian Picciolini, a co-founder of Life After Hate, told Reuters his group was planning to use its $400,000 grant to scale up its counselor network of former extremists to “meet the highly increased requests for our services since Election Day.”

“The current administration's lack of focus on domestic white extremist terrorism, let alone its denial to even acknowledge it exists, is highly troubling,” he said.

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