The U.S. government’s fight against violent extremism loses its leader

Peter Beinart writes: George Selim, the federal counterterrorism official who works most closely with the organized American Muslim community, tendered his resignation on Friday [July 28]. His ouster is a victory for Trump officials like Steve Bannon and Sebastian Gorka, who see mainstream Muslim organizations as Islamist fronts, and for those American Muslims who oppose any counterterrorism cooperation with Washington. “There were clearly political appointees in this administration who didn’t see the value of community partnerships with American Muslims,” Selim told me. It is the clearest sign yet that government cooperation with Muslim communities, which has proved crucial to preventing terrorist attacks, is breaking down.

The news was first reported on Sunday afternoon by The Conservative Review, a journal edited by the talk-show host Mark Levin, citing a senior administration official. It called Selim “a prominent Obama administration holdover known for engaging fringe Islamic radicals.”

But Selim, who confirmed to me on Sunday night that this will be his last week on the job, is not a Democrat with Islamist sympathies. He’s a conservative Republican who many Muslim activists viewed with suspicion. For the past two years, he’s been the founding director of the Office of Community Partnerships in the Department of Homeland Security, and the leader of the federal Countering Violent Extremism Task Force.

Selim’s biography evokes a bygone era. He’s an Arab American—his family is of Egyptian and Lebanese descent. Early in his career, he worked at the Arab American Institute, which advocates for Arab American civil rights, and in 2004 served as an alternate delegate to the Republican National Convention. Soon after that, he joined the Bush administration. [Continue reading…]

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