California Islamic School Rejects $800,000 Anti-Extremism Grant From Trump Admin

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Jonah Bennett Contributor
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California Islamic school Bayan Claremont, founded by Jihad Turk, rejected an offer of $800,000 from the Trump administration to combat extremism.

Bayan Claremont, an Islamic graduate school privately held and located in Claremont, Calif., decided Friday evening to reject the funds because of President Donald Trump’s temporary travel suspension from seven terror-connected countries and his obsessive focus on Islamic extremism, The Associated Press reports.

The funds come from a program established under former President Barack Obama called Counter Violent Extremism. Bayan’s move makes it the fourth Islamic institution to say no to federal government funds under the Trump administration.

There was considerable internal debate about whether to accept the funds, but Turk said that while the grant is “a heck of a lot of money … our mission and our vision is to serve the community and to bring our community to a position of excellence.”

“And if we’re compromised, even if only by perception in terms of our standing in the community, we ultimately can’t achieve that goal,” Turk added.

Turk also noted that the concerns expressed about the CVE program were also expressed during the Obama administration’s tenure, as school officials did not believe the mere presence of extremist ideology alone necessitated a clear path to violence.

Rather, Turk has a different conception of the relationship between religion and acts of terror.

In March 2016, Turk took part in a forum about religious extremism and said that as far as he’s concerned, what often looks like religiously-motivated terror is often reducible to identity politics or struggles over territory.

“There’s no justification in religion to do these immoral acts,” Turk said. “It’s really not what’s going on the ground there, and it’s a much more complicated conversation.”

And following the terror attack in Orlando on the Pulse gay night club, Turk said in an interview in 2016 that law enforcement cannot predict all so-called “lone-wolf” attacks. Turk said that these attacks could be prevented with love and that the country should try to foster an environment of inclusion, which can be hard, as many Americans don’t know any Muslims.

The money from the CVE program would have covered half of Bayan’s yearly budget.

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