The FBI has launched a new website to counter extremism – devoid of any references to Islam or Islamist extremism.
Titled "Don’t be a Puppet," the site originally had a significant emphasis on the main terrorism scourge plaguing today's world – namely, extremist Islam. However, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) – self-billed as "America's largest Muslim civil liberties organization" and headquartered on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. – pressured the FBI, and all references to Islam were removed.
The website seeks to deconstruct some of the motivating factors that lead people into extremism. It is aimed for use in high schools or other programs for teenagers.
The website was originally slated to launch last November, but the criticism by CAIR prevented this. CAIR – which faces a possible ban in the U.S.; see below – said that the focus on extremist Muslims could "stigmatize and increase bullying of Muslim students.”
The New York Times reported at the time that a pre-launch program for representatives of Arab and other groups highlighted some of the problems. Hoda Hawa, director of policy and advocacy for the Muslim Public Affairs Council, said she was particularly troubled by a question that asked the user to identify which of several social media posts should raise alarm.
Among the choices: a person posting about a plan to attend a political event, and someone with an Arabic name posting about going on “a mission” overseas. The fact that the latter was the correct answer troubled Ms. Hawa. “What kind of mission?" she said. "It could have been humanitarian. It could have been religious.”
Following the removal of Islamist mentions, the site was finally launched about three weeks ago.
Clarion Project – whose goals are "educating the public about Islamic extremism and providing a platform for Muslim human rights activists" – is critical of the watered-down FBI site.
"There is no reason why a site that targets the specific roots of Islamist terrorism and tackles the ideology openly should increase the bullying of Muslim students," the organization states. "On the contrary, if the site’s explanation properly separates the theocratic totalitarian political ideology of Islamism from the religion of Islam in general, then it should have the opposite impact – calming fears about Muslims by painting an accurate picture about what is going on."
The updated version of the site includes only vague generalities about different types of “violent extremism.” Among various extremists listed are White Supremacists, Environmental extremists, Militia extremists, Religious extremists, and Anarchist extremists.
The House Judiciary Committee passed a bill last week calling on the State Department to classify the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist group. The bill lists CAIR, as well as two other Islamic groups – ISNA and NAIT – as organizations that are under the control of the international Muslim Brotherhood.
Under the bill, the Obama Administration would be forced to deny admittance to any foreign national tied to the Muslim Brotherhood. Since Obama became President, people connected to the Muslim Brotherhood have received entry visas despite their open support for terrorist groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah.
The FBI website states that it is the FBI's responsibility to "protect the nation from attacks by violent extremists. One important way to do that is to keep young people – the future of our country – from embracing violent extremist ideologies in the first place. This website is designed to help do just that."
Clarion notes, however, that "without a clear explanation of the ideology behind Islamist terrorism, the FBI presents the problem as solely one of violence… Although the website mentions specific terrorist attacks including 9/11 as being carried out by al-Qaeda, it failed to name the specific ideology driving Islamist terrorist attacks worldwide."