Tarin Speaks at White House Event Hosted by Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government
This week, the Director of MPAC’s Washington, DC office, Haris Tarin, was part of a White House event at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government commemorating the tragic Boston Marathon bombing. The event, Countering Violent Extremism and the Power of Community, included Lisa Monaco, Assistant to President Obama for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism; Alejandro Mayorkas, Deputy Secretary at the Department of Homeland Security; Rev Jeffrey Brown, Managing Partner of Rebuilding Every City Around Peace (RECAP); and Farah Pandith, Harvard Fellow and former Special Representative to Muslim Communities at the Department of State.
The evening began with opening remarks from Monaco addressing the first anniversary of the Boston attacks and how Bostonians have continued to be models of resiliency and unbending strength. In her address, Monaco stressed that “local communities are the most powerful asset [we] have in the struggle against violence and violent extremism.”
Indeed, there are limitations on what the government is capable of addressing. “We have a great thing called the Constitution,” said Tarin. “Having radical ideas is not illegal; if a person is committing an act of violence, government takes action. But, communities have to develop the tools where those ideas can be discussed, challenged or engaged out in the open.”
In response to the attacks a year ago, MPAC took the lead in addressing this oft-overlooked issue within the community. Drawing upon experts, ex-extremists, and faith and community leaders, MPAC created the Safe Spaces Initiative: A Toolkit for Developing Healthy Communities. Within the toolkit, a new approach to dealing with potentially violent extremists was developed through a Prevention-Intervention-Ejection (PIE) model. During the event, Tarin expounded on the background of the development of the PIE model, stating, “The President in his 2011 Countering Violent Extremism strategy said arresting our way out of [this] problem is not going to work. So MPAC’s response was the PIE model where we emphasize intervention. There’s the prevention part that communities can do really well, but we need to start intervening.”
Safe Spaces delineates when law enforcement should get involved in a situation; however, their involvement and their partnership with the community must be based on trust. In his gang violence prevention work, Rev Brown stated that indeed, trust is the foundation that must be present when dealing with law enforcement, communities and at-risk individuals. Thus, MPAC’s campaign is focused on creating an atmosphere of trust where individuals can express ideas, concerns or grievances freely without fear of stigma or legal ramifications.
One year later, this initiative shows the progress and maturation of the American Muslim community by its taking control of its own narrative. Let’s be clear: violent extremism is a small problem with a big impact. Safe Spaces fills a vacuum which is currently being occupied by extremists and those who seek to marginalize American Muslims from the mainstream.