FBI Tool to Prevent Extremism Ignores Right-Wing Extremism, Focuses Only on Muslims

Human Rights

On Monday, the New York Times had a reported piece focusing on a new Federal Bureau of Investigation interactive computer program focused on preventing “young people from being drawn into violent extremism.”


The program will be called “Don't Be a Puppet” and is designed to use games and tips to help teachers and students identify minors being drawn to extremism. As you answer questions correctly, the onscreen puppet is eventually cut free.

One problem is, the program focuses almost entirely on Muslim extremism and ignores all of the other varieties. The FBI held several meetings over the summer with American Muslims to discuss the program. “They were getting blowback from everybody. It was a very tense meeting,” said Abed A. Ayoub, who works with the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.

Since 9/11, most deaths as a result from extremism in the United States have been from homegrown right-wing extremists, including mass shootings, anti-government violence and related terrorists.

Others are criticizing the program for trying to deputize schools to engage in a task for which they are not properly trained.

“Teachers in classrooms should not become an extension of law enforcement,” said Arjun Sethi, a counter-terrorism expert at the Georgetown University Law Center. “The program is based on flawed theories of radicalization, namely that individuals radicalize in the exact same way and it’s entirely discernible. But it's not and the FBI is basically asking teachers and students to suss these things out.”

By ignoring extremism from non-Muslims and treating classrooms as counter-terrorism vehicles, the FBI appears to be singling out a religious minority and going about its anti-extremism efforts in all the wrong ways.

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