An FBI strategy to counter terrorism - based on the UK Prevent program - is aimed directly at Muslim children in the United States.
The FBI's strategy for Preventing Violent Extremism in Schools aims to recruit teachers and school officials to monitor students for signs of radicalization. The criteria for what may constitute radicalization may as well be designed to facilitate racial and religious profiling and quash political dissent. It includes those who criticize US government policies, have qualms about “western corruption,” use “code word or unusual language,” and travel to “suspicious” countries. It also reinforces the mistaken belief that there are reliable indicators which may help predict who becomes a violent extremist.
The FBI's strategy came under immediate fire for instructing teachers to effectively “act as puppets of federal law enforcement” and using the threat of terrorism to “justify a massive surveillance apparatus.” A coalition of 14 civil liberties organizations pointed out to FBI Director James Comey that the Bureau's strategy “perpetuates profiling and negative stereotypes that Arabs, Sikhs, South Asians, Muslims and those perceived to be Muslim are prone to engage in extremist violence…”
Muslim students already face abuse and bullying in schools and the FBI's strategy is likely to exacerbate this trend. In a study published last year, the California chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-CA) reported that 55% of American Muslim students it surveyed admitted being subjected to “some form of bullying based on their religious identity,” a rate that was twice as high as the national average.
In addition to the threat of bullying, the FBI strategy also compromise the trust teachers strive to cultivate with students as well as teachers' attempts to encourage original and creative thinking in students. As Congressman Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS) warned in a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch, having teachers participate in the FBI's strategy may “chill relationships with students or, for that matter, undermine a supportive learning environment.”
These concerns are not merely theoretical. The FBI's strategy is modeled after UK's Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) program known as Prevent. Since the British Parliament passed the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act in 2015, public sector workers such as teachers and doctors have a statutory duty to identify students and patients at risk of violent extremism and report them to Channel, the government's De- radicalization program. Some recent reports on Prevent illustrate the problems the FBI's strategy is likely to encounter and the impact it will have on students and teachers.
Source: World Bulletin / News Desk