Walid and Gorka are now getting their wish. In May, Reuters reported that Trump’s proposed budget would eliminate funding for the CVE task force by fiscal year 2018.
Still, Selim considered staying on. He told me he believes former Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly grasped the importance of outreach to Muslim communities. Selim even arranged for Kelly to attend an Iftar dinner in Northern Virginia earlier this year, in which the secretary spoke enthusiastically about the importance of partnering with American Muslims. In a statement issued Monday, Acting DHS Secretary Elaine Duke said that, Kelly “and I often relied on George's thoughtful and reasoned approach to challenging issues” and that his “experienced and steady hand was important as he played a key role in advising me and senior DHS leaders.” Kelly’s departure from DHS—on Monday he’ll become Trump’s White House chief of staff—may have contributed to Selim’s resignation.
Selim’s departure is another example of the federal government’s institutional breakdown in the Trump era. He coordinated the efforts of the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, the National Counterterrorism Center, and Justice Department. “[The law] enforcement [community], [the] intelligence community, [the] tech sector, academia, philanthropic, and state and local communities … all knew that if they needed a point of contact, consultation, and resources,” on domestic counterterrorism, “George was the guy to go to,” said former Obama administration counterterrorism official Nate Snyder. Now, with Selim’s departure, and the likely dismantling of the task force he ran, all those entities will find it harder to work together.
As part of that coordination, Selim’s task force upheld standards for counterterrorism training. During Obama’s first term, Spencer Ackerman, then of Wired, documented the widespread use of blatantly anti-Muslim materials in counterterrorism training at the FBI, the military and the Justice Department. Selim’s task force helped create and enforce new standards, which required that training materials on Islam be peer reviewed.
The Breitbart crowd denounced these efforts. In his 2016 book, Defeating Jihad, Gorka demanded that “the politically motivated censorship of government analysis, training, and education must end.” Now it may. “We may see the return of snake-oil salesmen and trainers with facade credentials, people who have pushed the ludicrous and dangerous notion that all Muslims are terrorists,” worries Snyder.
Finally, Selim’s departure likely heralds a wider gulf between Muslim communities and the federal government. Zaki Barzinji, who served as the White House liaison to Muslim Americans in Obama’s final year, notes that “even Muslim groups that were critical of CVE felt they could talk to him, express their criticisms. They’re going to be completely cut off now.” Abed Ayoub of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee agreed. “We didn’t buy” CVE, he said, but “at least there was the communication with the community. We didn’t agree on most things but hearing our voice was important.” Now, he argues, American Muslim activists won’t even bother to talk to the federal government. When the Trump administration does something they dislike, they’ll move immediately to protests and lawsuits. Salam Al-Marayati, president of the Muslim Public Affairs Committee, argued that with Selim’s departure, “the idea of community partnership has become obsolete.”