- Deseret News - Saturday, November 7, 2015

A curriculum designed by the FBI to detect the early stages of violent religious extremism has drawn fire from Islamic organizations, who argue that the curriculum inappropriately targets Muslims.

Details on the program were scarce in the New York Times article, but some of the learning tools included an exercise with paper and scissors, where students are led through “a series of games and tips intended to teach how to identify someone who may be falling prey to radical extremists,” urged to “not be a puppet” and asked to cut away strings that represent clues of extremist entanglement.

“They wanted teachers in social studies, civics and government classes to show this to their students,” Hoda Hawa, the director of policy and advocacy for the Muslim Public Affairs Council, told the New York Times.

“She and others interviewed were particularly troubled by a question that she said asked the user to identify which of four or five posts on social media should raise alarm,” the Times reported. “Among the choices were a person posting about a plan to attend a political event, or someone with an Arabic name posting about going on ‘a mission’ overseas. The correct answer was the posting with the Arabic name.”

While the FBI program was aimed at heading off extremists who might join sleeper cells or go abroad to fight for ISIS, some critics view the effort as misplaced, arguing that schools have more immediate concerns with violence.

“The greatest threat facing American school children today is gun violence,” Arjun S. Sethi, an adjunct professor of law at the Georgetown University Law Center, told the New York Times. “It’s not Muslim extremism.”

The incident in Roseburg, Oregon, which occurred at a community college, was committed by 26-year-old student who was not at all religious and, in fact, singled out Christians for his murders.

But the FBI program, it appears, is not really focused on preventing violent incidents in the schools so much as forestalling American youth from being drawn into violent networks that might lead them to go abroad to fight alongside ISIS or perpetrate terrorism at home.

In April, six men of Somali descent were arrested in San Diego, as they tried to make their way through Mexico to join ISIS in the Middle East.

Still, as the New York Times notes, a recent report by the 9/11 Review Commission to the FBI suggested that the FBI, as a law enforcement agency, was not well suited to the task social prevention of extremism.

“The CVEO’s current limited budget and fundamental law enforcement and intelligence responsibilities,” the Commission stated, “do not make it an appropriate vehicle for the social and prevention role in the CVE mission. Such initiatives are best undertaken by other government agencies.”

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