Who Is the Community in Community Engagement? Law Enforcement Approaches to Countering Radicalization

Using recent firsthand research, Open Society Fellow Arun Kundnani presents a discussion on community engagement models used by U.S. law enforcement agencies among Muslim populations across the country.

A new White House position paper on preventing violent extremism in the United States sees government engagement with the Muslim community as the best way to counter radicalization. Drawing on a community-oriented policing model that has been used to counter gang violence, the approach aims to build trust with the community, generate intelligence and counter radical narratives. The approach has won support from liberal advocates, national Muslim organizations, and counterterrorism experts alike.

But based on his work in the UK—where similar policies have ended in failure—and his research in various U.S. cities, Kundnani believes that there are potential dangers in simply replicating the community engagement approach used to counter gang violence. Unless it is properly understood, he argues, community engagement can become a tool for inappropriate forms of intelligence-gathering and restrictions on free expression, which are ultimately counterproductive.

More fundamentally, it raises questions about how we think of community. Does such a view regard the community as monolithic and ignore diverse interests and power relationships within the community? What is the state’s role in defining the community and anointing power brokers who may or may not be truly representative of the community?

Patricia Jerido of the Open Society Foundations U.S. Programs interviews Kundnani and moderates the discussion.

Date: September 12, 2011
Time: 12:15 p.m.

OSI-New York

Patricia Jerido and Arun Kundnani