France has been forced to implement historic measures to halt the spread of radical Islam as the country faces the return of hundreds of thousands of people who left to join ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
The French government will immediately open 450 high-security areas within the country’s prisons to house “radicalized inmates,” with plans to increase that number to 1,500 in the coming years, says French Prime Minister Édouard Philippe.
Teachers will be taught how to identify radicalized teens, and any private school believed to be a breeding ground for radical Islam will be shut down.
“Islamic State is losing ground every day in Syria and Iraq thanks to the international coalition and our army, but the internal threat on our territory and our borders remains,” says Philippe.
Some areas of France, such as the Paris suburb of Trappes, have been completely transformed by Islam. “You won’t see any non-halal butcher shops…If you look at people on the street, you won’t see couples holding hands,” says Dr. Leslie Shaw, President of the Forum on Islamic Radicalization and Management. “You couldn’t really consider Trappes as a traditional French town anymore. It’s a little bit like a state within a state.”
French police avoid Trappes in fear of causing riots. “It’s a very, very fragile situation,” says Shaw. “It’s only a matter of time before we have another attack. The basic problem is the ideology that’s driving this. And this goes much deeper than terrorist cells, [or] planning and executing attacks.”
More than 240 people have been killed in terror attacks in France in the past three years, but authorities still haven’t managed to eliminate the recruitment networks that fueled the attacks.
Jails present a particular problem.
The effort to combat Islamic extremism has led to crowded jails, but France has found that it must hold jihadists separate from other inmates or risk spreading their dangerous ideas to others. This strategy began under former French President François Hollande, but was backtracked on fears that grouping radicals together would help them plot violence.
More than 500 people in France are currently serving time for terrorism offenses, but over 1,000 prisoners have been ‘flagged’ as being radicalized.
The new government also announced plans to help reintegrate minors returning from fallen ISIS strongholds. “About 68 minors, almost three quarters of them under 8 years old, have returned from Syria and Iraq,” reports The Wall Street Journal.
Philippe says the French government will also be working closely with British Prime Minister Theresa May to censor online propaganda that could lead to the radicalization of vulernable teenagers and young adults.
“No one has a magic formula for ‘deradicalization’ as if you might de-install dangerous software,” says Philippe. “But France and elsewhere there are good approaches to prevention and disengagement.”
The new policies, announced Friday, are at odds with statements by President Emmanuel Macron.
“Those who would have us believe that Islam prospered by destroying other monotheistic religions are liars and traitors,” said Macron last September.
Now, Macron is promising to “lay the groundwork for the entire reorganization of Islam in France” with a plan that will “fight fundamentalism” while “preserving national cohesion.”
It is unclear exactly how Macron plans to “reorganize” a religion, but you can bet French Muslims won’t be on board.
According to a survey of French Muslim adolescents conducted by the National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) in 2016,
- 72% reject science when it is in conflict with Islamic doctrine
- 68% believe Islamic law is superior to secular law
- 62% consider their religion very important
- 36% are opposed to gender equality
- 54% believe states should pay a salary to imams
- 23% believe their teachers say things that are false
A second CNRS poll found 33% of Muslims students condone violence and social deviance.
If the results of these surveys are a true representation of the mindset of the next generation of adult Muslims in France, Macron’s plan to regulate Islam in is likely to be met with violent rejection.