French efforts to stop Muslim youths turning to extremism failing


French efforts to stop Muslim youths turning to extremism failing

France’s attempts to counter the radicalization of its young people are in turmoil, with a group home intended to turn them away from Islamic extremism empty, the head of a highly publicized nonprofit convicted of misuse of public funds, and plans to segregate prison inmates suspected of harboring jihadi ideas abandoned. The results are both disappointing and unsurprising, according to a French senator who co-wrote a recent report highly critical of an effort she says was devised in haste and has been a waste of money.

“We spread money around because we didn’t have time and we had to communicate something, we had to show something,” Sen. Esther Benbassa, whose report last month concluded that the country’s de-radicalization efforts so far were largely ineffective, said. “The time that this takes to work is long, very long.”  The backtracking takes on added significance as recent attacks, including last week’s rampage in London and the previous week’s attempted on soldiers at Paris’ Orly airport, were carried out by ex-convicts who may have been radicalized behind bars.

France is not the only country reconsidering how it responds to radicalization. Britain’s contentious Prevent program, which seeks to identify residents at risk of being radicalized, has come under criticism by rights groups and an expert for the United Nations who said it stifles free speech.

France’s experiments with preventing radicalization were conceived during a literal state of emergency following the extremist attacks on the staff of Charlie Hebdo magazine and a kosher supermarket in January 2015 and the Paris bombings and shootings that left 130 dead 10 months later. The ad hoc attempts focused on the prison system, a key incubator for many would-be jihadis, and programs that tried to target those already on the path to extremism. They did not go as hoped.

Sonia Imloul, the former head of a de-radicalization program that had support of the French Interior Ministry, was convicted of misuse of funds this month after trial testimony showed she had government funds for the organization deposited directly into her account…France has seen more of its citizens join extremist groups in Syria and Iraq than anywhere else in Europe. The main way to measure if the country is making progress in its fight to change that is the rapid decline in young people leaving, said Domenach, who was the consul general for France in Istanbul when French departures were at their height. For now, though, she attributes the drop as much to the Islamic State group’s war zone losses as anything else. “The best counter-narrative is military victory, to start with. With military victory, Daesh would lose a lot of its dark allure,” she said, referring to the group by its Arabic acronym.

France continues to monitor 2,400 people it considers at risk for radicalization and 1,000 families. Domenach is prioritizing community youth centers and respected local figures instead of down counter-narrative from the state to reach young people long before they turn against their country. Once they do, she said, it is all but too late.

Source: CBS News

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