A California Islamic school has become the fourth Muslim group to turn down federal funds to fight terrorism under President Donald Trump's administration, funds they had been receiving under a program developed by former President Barack Obama.
The Bayan Claremont graduate school's board made the decision to turn down $800,000 in federal funds made available via the Department of Homeland Security through a program created under Obama known as countering violent extremism, or CVE. Officials say the program is aimed at fighting terrorism by attempting to undermine extremists' abilities to recruit terrorists around the world. Fox News reports the rejection of the funds was borne of a desire to disassociate from Trump.
[T]he fledgling school's founding president, Jihad Turk, said officials ultimately felt accepting the money would do more harm than good.
It's "a heck of a lot of money, (but) our mission and our vision is to serve the community and to bring our community to a position of excellence," Turk said. "And if we're compromised, even if only by perception in terms of our standing in the community, we ultimately can't achieve that goal," he said, adding that accepting the funds would be short-sighted.
The school had reportedly earmarked $250,000 to go toward at least a dozen nonprofits doing social justice work in an effort to help create a "new generation" of Muslim leaders in local communities.
Fox reports this is the fourth Muslim-affiliated school to turn down federal funds from the CVE program. Unity Productions Foundation of Potomac Falls, Virginia, plans to decline $396,585 to produce educational films challenging extremist ideologies "due to the changes brought by the new administration"; Leaders Advancing and Helping Communities, based in Michigan, turned down $500,000 for youth and health programs due to the "current political climate"; and a Minneapolis Somali nonprofit called Ka Joog also turned down $500,000.
The Trump administration has reportedly been considering changing the name of the program, of which nearly 20 percent of the $10 million awarded has been rejected. Turk told Fox News that his school already had reservations about the CVE strategy under Obama. He said the Bayan Institute felt there was a lack of proof that a pathway to violence automatically existed just because of someone's extreme ideology. But they took the money under Obama because they believed his administration wasn't hostile to their faith.
Now he feels differently due to what he calls Trump's "fixation on the American Muslim community." Turk is worried that Trump's "scary" campaign promises were more than just rhetoric.
The new president recently signed an executive order calling for a travel ban on seven Muslim-majority nations that is being challenged in federal court. He also promised during his campaign to get tough on terrorism.