17:45 GMT03 December 2020
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    Despite over 17,000 French citizens have been classified in a March report as a potential threat to national security, the country's Reintegration and Citizenship center for deradicalization that had operated for less than 12 months was shut down in July.

    PARIS (Sputnik) – The French deradicalization program, aimed at convincing youths to turn their back on the jihadist ideology, has failed completely, outlining the need of the EU authorities to focus on social roots of radicalization in addressing the spread of jihadist ideology in the region, experts told Sputnik.


    Francois-Bernard Huyghe, a research director specializing in terrorism and radicalization at the French Institute for International and Strategic Affairs (IRIS), told Sputnik that the country’s authorities in their deradicalization program used to consider radicalization almost as a psychiatric problem, and wanted to hide the fact that a very structured ideology and efficient rhetoric stood behind the phenomenon.

    "This deradicalization was like a support group. Obviously, it did not work, and those people who are really radicalized did not even go there. The closure of that center means our complete failure. It was like a final blow to this initiative, which wanted to be a magic answer – by being nice to people, listening to them, preventing them from doing the jihad. We believed that we could resolve this problem with kindness … We failed here," Huyghe said.

    Kader Abderrahim, an IRIS research fellow specializing in Islamism and a lecturer at Sciences Po university, agreed that deradicalization program lack effectiveness.

    READ MORE: France Faces High Terrorism Threat Risk Two Years After Paris Attacks — Minister

    "If we observe how these young men become terrorists, it is always the same pattern. They do not have social or family ties. Among the foreign fighters who have joined Daesh, since 2014, more than a half comes from France. It is normal, since it is the country with the largest Islamic [immigrants population]. And among them 40 percent are converted, so it is not the problem of Islam, it is a social problem, even cultural, given that those people come from Christian background, and then choose to join jihadist movement," Abderrahim explained, outlining the need for the authorities "to treat the roots of the problem."

    The expert continued by saying that the French politicians were incapable of dealing with this social issue.

    "It is easier to believe that we will regulate this problem putting the questions of security first, we see that it is not enough, it is highly inefficient. But we never want to talk about it. Since the war in Algeria, we have this problem of attitude to the Arabs, immigrants and Islam. The proof is that after four years of this deradicalization program, we saw that it was a total failure," Abderrahim pointed out.

    Huyghe also outlined the lack of understanding by the authorities of how to address jihadist propaganda in Europe.

    "We do not know what to do. Psychological treatment does not work, and the counter-discourse does not [work] either. We made videos saying ‘if you go to Syria or Iraq, you risk to die, and to kill people.’ But these people do go there to die and to kill people. We misunderstood completely that we are addressing the totally inverse system of values. We addressed [the foreign fighters] as imbeciles who do not read the press and who misunderstand something. And in the meantime, they are fully converted, politically and religiously," the expert explained.

    The IRIS research director also suggested that the French political class had "a certain embarrassment" in dealing with treating jihadist propaganda, because "they did not want to be accused of Islamophobia, [thus] trying to find all sorts of sociological, psychological, psychoanalytical reasons behind the big terror attacks that made France bleed, having a politically correct discourse."


    Over recent months, the Syrian and Iraqi armies have been rapidly retaking control of their territories from terrorists. In October, the EU commissioner for security said that the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation had a list of about 8,000 potential foreign terrorist fighters from Europe supporting militant groups in the Middle East. In his relation, some experts said that a massive return of these foreign fighters to Europe from the Middle East could be expected in the near future.

    READ MORE: DJ Jihad: Daesh Airs Recruitment Song on Hijacked Swedish Radio

    "Obviously, jihadists who return from Syria represent a threat, and moreover we do not know their motivation. But if we go into details, we see that the majority of those who are returning, 80 percent of them are young women with their children; they left for Syria and Iraq aged 16, 17, and they return now with two, three, four children. It is a horrible humanitarian situation, what can we do about it? Between the lines, in Europe and in the United States, we comprehend that one prefers them not to return because we do not know, which threat they can pose, and we do not want to take the risk. We were not prepared for it, this is an unprecedented situation," Abderrahim said.

    The emerging defeat of Daesh in the Middle East does not mean that the group will die, the expert suggested.

    "[Daesh] has the strategy of waiting, they will redeploy [their forces] on other territories, other continents, notably in Asia, I think… In Europe we might see other terror attacks, but it will be the individual action, not the result of a prepared organized attack," Abderrahim continued.

    The expert pointed out that though Daesh is likely being defeated militarily, it continues existing and attracting new terrorists though radicalization.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.


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