A recent intelligence report for the country's president, prime minister and Jean-Michel Blanquer, the minister of education, is explosive: boys who don't want to hold hands with girls, students who don't listen to music or schoolchildren who refuse to have classes in rooms with red furniture, considered "haram"… Radio Europe 1 has been able to get their hands on the report and publish it. While the number of such cases is stable, the radicalism displayed by some students, sometimes very young, worries authorities.
According to Le Figaro, a hotline put into service by the Ministry of Education in late May to report "attacks on secularism" receives about 30 calls per day from teachers who don't always know how to react. Karim Ifrak from the l'École Pratique des Hautes Études de Paris shared with Sputnik his concern about the phenomenon, while recalling that it pertains to only a minority of French Muslims.
Sputnik: Does the intelligence report surprise you?
Karim Ifrak: Not at all. Since the election of Macron, we no longer hear about the excesses related to Islamist radicalization that marked the five-year period of François Hollande. But they are still there. The fact that we don't talk about them anymore doesn't mean they don't exist. The intelligence services know exactly what is happening in France, and what they tell us is just the tip of the iceberg.
Sputnik: How do you explain the growing radicalization?
Karim Ifrak: When you look closely at the intelligence report, you find that it talks about Salafism and Islamism — the two ideologies that often make them talk about issues related to halal food or mixing girls and boys. And now, we go so far as to speak of the color red, allegedly forbidden in the Koranic text.
Sputnik: This sometimes concerns very young children. To what extent are parents responsible for such behavior?
Karim Ifrak: Obviously they play a huge role. Education is first done in a family's home. If your family adheres to any ideology, well, you absorb it. You imitate what is happening at home. All of these young children live in an Islamist or Salafist environment. This context invites us to take it much more seriously.
Sputnik: The report mentions cases where Muslim children are stigmatized and vilified by other Muslim children because they don't eat halal food, for example. That's rather disturbing…
Karim Ifrak: On the one hand, it's quite disturbing, but on the other hand, it is not. This means that some Muslims don't adhere to Salafism or Islamism. In fact, it is the overwhelming majority of French Muslims who advocate a traditional, tolerant and inclusive Islam. This is a positive point to note.
A minority tries to impose their way of viewing things and their way of life, for example through clothing or food, and this is intolerable, especially when it happens in national education. These actions are something new. In the past, we didn't have this kind of attitude between Muslims. It seems as though a stage has been concluded and we are now moving into action and intimidation. We need to remember that this is a very young audience. What will happen when they become adults?
Sputnik: One has the impression that some families' religion and certain behaviors are not compatible with life in the French Republic… Can we talk about returning to the past?
Karim Ifrak: It is disturbing to see that even after several generations, change cannot succeed. The transmission of education, knowledge or an ideology is from generation to generation. From the third [generation], we have sometimes experienced a return to the most radical and extreme religious practices. It is in this small space that there has been a transmission of values that are not those of the vast majority of France's Muslims. Children fall under the influence of this education and this very limited vision of things, which rejects everything else.
Sputnik: Can we talk about "disintegration" when it comes to these families and children?
Karim Ifrak: I would even talk about separatism. It is amazing, but it is about people who have lived under the protection of the Republic that gave them everything. Yet, they stand up and claim not to adhere to its values. They educate their children in rejecting these values. This is inadmissible and it shouldn't exist. It's proven by the fact that the majority of French Muslims is more and more integrated and no longer adheres to communitarianism or the identitarian movement.
Sputnik: While transferring power, former Interior Minister Gérard Collomb delivered a very strong speech. He was worried about the communitarianism that strikes certain neighborhoods and he even said that "we live side by side and I'm afraid that tomorrow we could live face to face." Could this dark prophecy come true?
Karim Ifrak: Not at all. It is only the affair of a minority and it is not this minority that could provoke a social fracture in France that would push people to look at each other face to face and no longer walk side by side.
Sputnik: What should be done at the level of Muslim associations or the authorities?
Karim Ifrak: I think that Hakim El Karoui's project, especially at the level of teaching the Arabic language, is a beautiful project, because it could stop the influence and the progress of separatist ideologies, which are those of Islamists and Salafists. Young children who have shown a communitarian attitude are just victims and shouldn't be looked upon as executioners. The real executioners are the adults, the cowards who hide behind their children.
They are the ones who should be watched closely. The state must strengthen its presence within the national education institutions.
In addition, it must look more closely at what is happening in some mosques or associations teaching the Arabic language and religious programs. Let's not be fooled, these same Salafist and Islamist families are the same ones who hold certain mosques and Koranic schools in France. It is in these places that this type of ideology is maintained. But again, the majority of mosques don't fit into this game. They are on the side of the Republic, inclusivity and well-being and not the side of separatism, Islamism and Salafism.
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