France’s radical Muslims list doubles in 11 months
French interior ministry report is used to justify extending state of emergency
France’s prime minister Manuel Valls says the country’s state of emergency will continue “as long as necessary”. Photograph: Eric Piermont/AFP/Getty Images
The number of people in France reported to have become radical Muslims has nearly doubled over the past 11 months, from 4,590 to 8,250, according to a report by the ministry of the interior leaked to Le Figaro newspaper.
The government’s “Stop-djihadisme.gouv” website and the corresponding “anti-jihad” toll-free number are the source of about half the names. In these cases, alleged radicals were denounced by their entourage.
The other half were reported by security and intelligence services and by school officials.
These 8,250 people are merely reported to have been radicalised, which does not necessarily mean authorities hold detailed profiles or solid evidence against them.
Le Figaro’s front-page editorial called them “potential human bombs”. A fifth of those listed are minors.
The percentage of converts to radical Islam appears to be increasing. Previous reports estimated they comprised close to a quarter of radical Muslims. The new report says 38 per cent are converts.
Contrary to the stereotype, the report by the interior ministry’s co-ordination unit in the fight on terrorism (Uclat) says that youths rarely self-radicalise solely over the internet.
“In 95 per cent of cases, the trigger is an encounter with a fundamentalist outside a lycée [secondary school], an apartment building or in a sports centre. Only then do social networks . . . reinforce the radicalisation with jihadist videos which are, alas, rather well produced.”
The largest concentrations of radical Muslims are in the Nord, Ile de France, Rhône, Haute-Garonne and Alpes-Maritimes departments, which are also the most populous areas of France. The Uclat report has been used by the government to justify prolonging the state of emergency, declared by President Francois Hollande on the night of November 13th, 2015, when jihadists killed 130 people in Paris.
Yesterday’s cabinet meeting extended the state of emergency for the second time, until May 26th. “This state of emergency is useful in the fight against terrorism,” the government spokesman Stéphane le Foll said, adding that the terrorist threat remains “at an extremely high level”.
Prime minister Manuel Valls said on January 22nd that the state of emergency will last “as long as necessary . . . until we get rid of Daesh.” (Daesh is the Arab acronym for Islamic State, also known as Isis.)
Opponents of the state of emergency and its enshrinement in a constitutional amendment demonstrated in Paris and several dozen towns last weekend. The state of emergency gives police full powers to search and hold suspects under house arrest, without a judge’s warrant. A high-ranking judge said the decree merely legalises long-standing practices by French police.
On January 28th, the council of state validated draft anti-terrorist legislation which will permanently instate the search and house arrest provisions of the state of emergency in French law.