One of Donald Trump’s chief campaign platforms was ending terrorism. He has continued to address this, in his own way, since his inauguration. However, one college is now saying that Trump’s administration refuses to provide funding that was explicitly promised for the purpose of counterterrorism efforts. Legislators are trying to find out why the money, expected weeks ago, isn’t showing up.
Republican Mark Walker, of North Carolina, a member of the U.S. House and former member of the House Committee on Homeland Security, championed legislation in 2015 to fund grants to help state and local authorities fight terrorism. The measure was also taken up by Michael McCaul, a Texas Republican, who co-sponsored the legislation, Walker described the way that terrorist groups use technology to radicalize and influence their targets, and said that grant money could, among other things, “detect and disrupt” these efforts.
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
UNC Chapel Hill was one of the institutions chosen as a recipient of the grant for 2017. News & Obsever reports that the amount was nearly $900k, and was announced in January. Recipients were told to expect the funding in early Spring.
Professor Cori Dauber, an expert on jihadist propaganda, and Mark Robinson, multimedia lab director at UNC, were prepared to use the funding to counter extremist propaganda. The two men interviewed students to work on the project, and set aside a studio. Now they say the empty emplty, weeks after they thought their work would be well underway. The reason? The Trump administration won’t release the promised funding.
Controversy On All Sides
The grant program has been controversial from many points of view:
- In February, Reuters reported that the Trump administration didn’t like that the program could also target white supremacist groups, in addition to Isis and other groups using Islamic beliefs to recruit.
- Civil liberties groups warned that a refocus included renaming the task force to include the term ‘Islamic Extremism,’ which could be a constitutional violation.
- A Muslim student group circulated a petition asking the university to renounce the grant.
Despite the Trump administration’s objections to the program addressing white supremacy, the UNC Muslim Student Association noted that four of five principals on the project were focused on Islam, and that the efforts included teaching students to ‘counter’ jihadi ideals in classmates, which would send the following message:
…that Muslims in the US, including the ones on this campus, are potential terrorists and fair game for government targeting with the help of their own institution.
Timing Is Everything
The delays have already affected the program. Students have graduated or left campus for the summer, leaving the program with fewer employees to help with the initiative.
Despite concerns, Rep. Mark Walker still supports the program — including aspects to fight white supremacist groups. He has filed an official request with the Department of Homeland Security to determine why the grant money is being withheld. One possibility, he notes, is that the delay is simply because Donald Trump has failed to fill many Federal positions, and that paperwork may be backed up because various departments withing the federal government are shorthanded.
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Steph Bazzle reports on social issues and religion for Hill Reporter. She focuses on stories that speak to everyone's right to practice what they believe in and receive the support of their communities and government officials. You can reach her at Steph@HillReporter.com