Trump wants less scrutiny on violent white supremacists

Instead, the exclusive focus of a Homeland Security program would be Islamic extremism.

President Donald Trump pauses during a ceremony in the Oval Office on Wednesday. CREDIT: AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster
President Donald Trump pauses during a ceremony in the Oval Office on Wednesday. CREDIT: AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

Three days after a white nationalist with an affinity for Trump killed six while shooting up a mosque in Canada, Reuters reports that the Trump administration wants a federal counter-terrorism program to stop focusing on violent white supremacists and any other extremist groups not comprised of Muslims.

“Such a change would reflect Trump’s election campaign rhetoric and criticism of former President Barack Obama for being weak in the fight against Islamic State and for refusing to use the phrase ‘radical Islam’ in describing it,” Reuters reports.

The federal program the Trump administration is reportedly considering changing is called “Countering Violent Extremism” (CVE). It “aims to deter groups or potential lone attackers through community partnerships and educational programs or counter-messaging campaigns in cooperation with companies,” Reuters reports. But if the changes being considered are implemented, it “would no longer target groups such as white supremacists who have also carried out bombings and shootings in the United States.”

A study published in 2015 found that people in America are seven times as likely to be killed by a right-wing extremist than a Muslim attacker. Recent mass shootings in the U.S. like the murder of nine African American worshippers at the historically black Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston in June 2015 and the murder of three people at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs a few months later were committed by white non-Muslim men and linked to extremist ideologies.

An administration rife with anti-Islam sentiment

Last Friday, Trump signed an executive order banning residents of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S. and ending Syrian refugee resettlement indefinitely. The order singles out Muslims by specifically directing the Secretary of Homeland Security to “prioritize refugee claims made by individuals on the basis of religious-based persecution, provided that the religion of the individual is a minority religion in the individual’s country of nationality” when refugee resettlement is resumed.

People in the impacted countries haven’t been particularly linked with extremism. As the Wall Street Journal reports, of the 161 people charged with jihadist terrorism-related crimes or who died before being charged since 2001, only 11 were identified as being from the seven countries included in Trump’s executive order — Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Yemen, Sudan, and Somalia.

During the White House press conference earlier Wednesday, National Security Adviser Michael Flynn read a statement “officially putting Iran on notice” because the country test-fired a missile. Flynn was appointed by Trump despite tweeting on separate occasions last year that “Fear of Muslims is RATIONAL” and daring “Arab & Persian world ‘leaders’ to step up to the plate and declare their Islamic ideology sick and must B healed.”

At that same news conference, Press Secretary Sean Spicer refused to condemn newly-revealed Islamophobic remarks made by top Trump adviser Steve Bannon.

“Islam is not a religion of peace. Islam is a religion of submission. Islam means submission,” Bannon, who has a long history of making similar remarks, said on an online right-wing radio station in 2010.

Islamophobia was a centerpiece of Trump’s presidential campaign. In the infamous December 2015 statement where he initially called for a Muslim ban, Trump cited debunked research and claimed, “there is great hatred towards Americans by large segments of the Muslim population.”

The lone suspect in the Canadian mosque shooting is Alexandre Bissonnette, a student at the nearby Laval University whose Facebook “likes” include far-right french nationalist Marine Le Pen and Trump. A former classmate told a local publication that Bissonnette was pro-Trump and anti-immigration.

But Fox News initially reported the attacker “was of Moroccan origin.” (The man was later determined to be a witness.) And during the White House press briefing on Monday, Spicer cited the mosque shooting as a justification of Trump’s Muslim ban.