The US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on late Sunday, 1 November, declared the introduction a communicative programme as a new tool to identify and prevent young individuals from turning into violent extremists.

The programme, known as "Don't Be a Puppet", features a series of games and tips developed for teachers and students to identify who is likely to become a victim of radical extremists. With every correct answer, the puppet is freed of a string by scissors, until all the strings are cut and the puppet is completely free.

However, the FBI has drawn flak from Arab, Muslim and other religious and civil rights leaders who were invited to look through the programme. They say the programme concentrates almost completely on Islamic extremism, which they claim hasn't been a factor in the sequence of shootings and attacks that occurred in US schools, reported the New York Times.

"The programme is based on flawed theories of radicalisation, namely that individuals radicalise in the exact same way and it's entirely discernible," said Arjun S Sethi, an additional professor of law at Georgetown University Law Centre who specialises in counter-terrorism and law enforcement.

Terming the FBI programme as "misplaced priorities", he further said the agency is "basically asking teachers and students to suss these things out".

Sethi added that gun violence, and not Muslim extremism, was the biggest threat to American schoolchildren.

Highlighting a recent incident where 14-year-old Texas schoolboy Ahmed Mohamed was handcuffed after he brought a self-made digital clock to school, which the institution's authorities thought was a bomb, many religious leaders have pointed out that teachers are not always rightly trained to judge or identify a likely extremist.

The FBI had held various meetings last summer to introduce the communicative programme, besides a larger policy to engage community leaders in curbing radicalisation entirely. On 16 October, Muslim and Arab groups were invitated via email for a meeting to preview the initiative.

At the meeting, Yemenis, Sikhs, American Muslims, Arabs and others were briefed on the programme that covers different kinds of violent groups and ideologies, and also explains personality changes that might betray radicalisation in an individual. It also involved places where most terrorist attacks occurred and even interviews of victims of these attacks.

Abed A Ayoub, the legal and policy director for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, said the meeting was "very tense".

Hoda Hawa, the director of policy and advocacy for the Muslim Public Affairs Council, and others present at the meeting crticised a particular question, where the user was asked to choose one option that would create alarm on social media.The choices included: a plan to visit a political event, or a person with an Arabic name posting about going on a "mission" overseas, and the right answer was the second option.

"What kind of mission? It could have been humanitarian. It could have been religious," said Hawa.

Ayoub said: "If this is shown to middle and high-school students, it's going to result in bullying of these children."

Nonetheless, the FBI had declared to the community organisations that the programme would be available online from Monday, 2 November.

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