French task force leader: ‘Radicalisation is not an ideology’

"Our brain naturally links radicalisation to a religious ideology such as Islamism," the task force's co-chair Fadila Leturcq told EURACTIV France. Before being an ideology, however, "radicalisation is a process that concerns other forms of political radicalisation [...] she added. EPA-EFE/THOMAS SAMSON / POOL MAXPPP OUT [EPA-EFE/THOMAS SAMSON / POOL MAXPPP OUT]

“Our brain naturally links radicalisation to a religious ideology such as Islamism,” Fadila Leturcq tells EURACTIV France. Before being an ideology, however, “radicalisation is a process that concerns other forms of political radicalisation, as was the case in New Zealand for example,” said Leturcq, who co-chairs a radicalisation task force set up by the Institute for Advanced National Defence Studies (IHEDN). EURACTIV France reports.

“Even if they are marginal, the processes of radicalisation is the same,” adds Leturcq.

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Radicals ‘feed off of each other’

“We are aware that different radicals feed off of each other,” said Coline Hrabina, also a co-head of the task force.

“It was important for us to explore the more visible ones as well as those that are emerging, as these represent future threats to be anticipated,” the task force’s co-head added.

For the task force, depoliticising the prevention and fight against radicalisation is vital, “simply because it is everyone’s business”. “There is no place for partisan quarrels over a subject that is so crucial for our youth and our security: it is time to find common solutions,” Hrabina continued.

On 25 November, France’s Council of State confirmed the dissolution of the NGO BarakaCity as well as the temporary closure of the Great Mosque in Pantin, targeted by the government following the assassination of Samuel Paty for their troubled links with radical Islamism. Both organisations have since appealed the decision.

The judge in summary stated that the main imam of this mosque had been trained at a fundamentalist institute in Yemen and that he was involved in the radical Islamist movement in Ile-de-France.

As for BarakaCity, the judge considered that the NGO’s president – who is very active on social media – had made statements inciting discrimination, hatred and violence, notably by calling for “punishments” against the victims of the Charlie Hebdo attack in 2015 or exposing named individuals to public vindictiveness.

The collective against Islamophobia, CCIF – also in the government’s focus – is challenging the interior ministry’s arguments and could itself lodge an appeal with the Council of State.

However, the person involved in the Avignon bombing had claimed to belong to the extreme right-wing organisation Génération identitaire.

Government spokesman Gabriel Attal had thus stated in early November that the question of a dissolution of the extreme right-wing grouping had arisen. “As soon as there is evidence that there is a call for violence, for hatred, the appropriate decisions must be taken. Nothing can be excluded”, Attal told France Inter, France Info and Le Monde. Since then, however, no dissolution has been announced.

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A double-standard that creates tensions

“To make radicalisation and Islamism synonymous when one represents a process while the other represents an ideology, can create a breeding ground for religious radicalisation. The radicals themselves take advantage of this, fuelling division in French society”, complains Leturcq.

“Religious extremism is not going to fuel other religious extremism but rather an identity and political extremism. There really is an echo between them. That is why it is important to identify this interplay of echoes throughout the process. We believe that focusing on it allows us to understand the mechanisms and then to stop and contain them,” she added.

In 2021 and 2022, 64 and 50 detainees accused of Islamist terrorism will be released from prison, respectively. The prison administration currently counts 503 detainees accused of terrorism, as well as 758 common law detainees thought likely to be radicalised. Among these, there are 32 so-called “ultra-right”, seven so-called “ultra-left”, two from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and 14 from Corsican independence circles.

The task force recommends setting up programmes aimed at reducing violence during and after imprisonment, by also taking into account the various types of radicalisation.

In Germany, the “EXIT-Germany” programme provides individual support for individuals wishing to leave the extreme right. Since 2000, the project has cared for about 500 people, with a re-offending rate of about 3%. This model was also the basis for the “HAYAT-Germany” project for Islamist radicalisation.

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