“In the West, jihadism has been spreading steadily since the 2000s. It represents a real threat, both real and symbolic, since it calls into question the values of European societies, such as equality, living together or freedom of speech” (Pietrasanta, 2015, p. 8). Many are Western governments that have failed to integrate Muslim communities in their society, letting an opportunity for terrorists to charm some Muslims, promising them dignity, an identity and a place in this world. However, it seems that there is a country more affected by this radicalization than others: France. In 2018, France is the first contributor of Western Europe to the jihadist effort with its 1.300 French citizens who are involved in jihadist networks in Syria and Iraq – without mentioning the 20.000 people considered as “radicalized” by intelligence services (Hecker, 2018). In these conditions, it is not surprising if France is the first victim in Europe of the jihadist terrorism with 5 attacks, 6 attempts and 20 attack projects in 2017 (Centre d’Analyse du Terrorisme [CAT], 2018). In the same year, there were 62 terrorist incidents (CAT, 2018) that occurred within the European Union and 50% of these terrorist incidents happened in France: the first target of the jihadist terrorism in Europe.
Many reasons are invoked to explain radicalization, among others: breakdown of the family unit with the devaluation of the parental authority; the loss of audience of institutional authorities involved in the integration process (army, school); the abolition of the national service charged of ensuring a social mixing; the ever increasing youth unemployment; the breakdown of the social elevator; the ghettoization of neighbourhoods (Pietrasanta, 2015).
In order to fight this radicalization phenomenon, an exclusive judicial and repressive treatment will not be enough. In a country where death penalty, life imprisonment and forfeiture of nationality are not practiced, the question about returning foreign fighters and jihadists who will be released from prison within a few years is a real issue. It is in this context that deradicalization and prevention appear as the only rational ways to counter this terrorist shadow that hovers on France, but without compromising the Muslims’ integration.
The interest of this study is to understand the complexity of the radicalization process and to observe how French authorities try to counter these difficulties to carry out their deradicalization and prevention policies.
This article is part of the RED-Alert project, funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation Programme under grant agreement No 740688.