Modeling Partnership Between Communities and Law Enforcement


Excerpted from- WISE Up- Knowledge ends Extremism 2017


Though Islamic teachings emphasize that “there is no compulsion in religion,” it is the ideology of force and compulsion that has led to the formation of Daesh. Followers of this movement believe that a religiously-centered life requires compelling Muslims to become better Muslims by force and by compelling others to either accept Islam or die. Daesh followers have given up on living within a pluralistic society. They believe that the West is at war with Islam and that closing themselves off from the West is a form of purification. All these issues need a response from authentic Muslim voices. Neither law enforcement nor government can either be or sponsor that voice. It needs to be community-driven and the community needs to see the value in its involvement on this issue. Any prodding from government is counterproductive.

Second to the ideological complexity of this problem is the record of law enforcement on this issue. As President Barack Obama expressed at the White House CVE Summit in February 2015, the U.S. government cannot arrest its way out of this problem; it needs the help of the community. The fiasco at Guantanamo Bay, stories of rendition, sting operations and entrapment: all of these have played into the mind-set within the community that law enforcement is part of the problem or is an obstacle to any solution. Heavy-handed law enforcement tactics have played a detrimental role in bringing communities to the table to discuss how to address the threat of Daesh to their own mosques and families. Unfortunately, both the numbers of arrests and the numbers of people joining Daesh are on the rise.

In order to be effective in preventing and countering violent extremism, Muslim leaders must develop a healthy partnership model between their communities and law enforcement agencies that is based on building trust and understanding. Government must adopt a policy that is reflective of the fact that violent extremism is not unique to Muslims but is also a problem among white supremacists and other disaffected groups. Singling out Muslims has also detrimentally affected the willingness of leaders in the community to get onboard in addressing threats of Daesh in their own communities.

The American Muslim community needs to more clearly see the value in preventing Daesh from infiltrating our families through social media. This problem cannot be seen or understood unless we leaders work to raise awareness of this threat. Saving one life is like saving all of humanity, as the Qur’an teaches us. So while the numbers of Daesh recruits are low within the U.S., the impact on communities is debilitating, especially if it involves an arrest or if one person commits a violent act believing this is a religious obligation. We cannot argue our way out of this problem, just like the government cannot arrest its way out of it.

We must, therefore, come up with solutions that originate from the community and are for the community, and we must focus on mental health, good Islamic education, and healthy Islamic activism and civic engagement as part of the answer. This is the community-based approach.

Federal law enforcement has two roles to play vis-à-vis dealing with the threat of Daesh: 1) protect the civil rights of communities as hate crimes and hate speech are on the rise; and 2) develop healthy partnerships with communities to empower people to intervene in cases where a person is thinking about joining Daesh. Building partnerships of trust requires reform within law enforcement, especially with regard to sting operations, as these sorts of operations leave the Muslim community doubtful about the true willingness of law enforcement to help them, as opposed to target them, and leaves the community extremely concerned about entrapment. There are some recent signs that some law enforcement agencies are beginning to respond to complaints from targeted minority communities, but there is still much work to be done.

The protection of civil rights is one of the essential mandates of federal law enforcement. When community leaders are bolstered in addressing any threat to their mosques by being able to leverage the relationships built with federal law enforcement, then communities will see the value of developing those relationships and feel less threatened by them. Also, when federal law enforcement agencies begin to create opportunities for community leaders to intervene in cases where an individual has potentially been recruited by Daesh (i.e. not treating it as a criminalmatter but as a social services matter), communities will feel trusted and will, in turn, trust law enforcement.

Provided they are well informed about the issue, a parent, friend, or mentor can ascertain when someone is thinking about joining groups like Daesh. There are no reliable or accurate radicalization theories that can be used by the government as indicators. The predictive model will only amount to racial profiling, as most youth are prone to feelings of alienation, anger, and negativity, but those of Middle Eastern and/or Muslim backgrounds are likely to be subjected to greater scrutiny.

So, to create an alternative to law enforcement–only approaches, community leaders must look at and deal with this problem at the micro level and not at the macro level. It is prudent for all of us to provide resources, training, and a safe space for any person who is confused about his/her beliefs, identity, or place in our society. Resources can include a directory of mental health experts, religious counselors, and social service workers. It is so much better to rehabilitate than to incarcerate. While anyone involved in criminal activity falls under the jurisdiction of law enforcement, we must remember that the preferred healing and educational approach to prevention is under the purview of the community.