Will the French government’s anti-jihad campaign be effective?

The French government began a campaign aimed at dissuading young Frenchmen from leaving France to fight in Syria and launched a video to combat jihadism. The video is primarily aimed at showing the “myths surrounding jihadism” by explaining what awaits them as foreign fighters. To combat the propaganda used by ISIL and rebel groups the video contrasted the promises made by jihadi recruiters with the harsh reality: war, violence and massacres.

It targets both young men and women. One line says, “They tell you: come make a family with one of our heroes. In reality, you will raise your children in the midst of war and terror.” The film ends with: “The indoctrination speeches made by jihadists lead to new victims every day,” followed by the hash tag #stopdjihadisme. The site contains several other sections, such as “Understand the terror threat,” “Decipher jihadist propaganda,” and “React-The state’s action,” and “Mobilize-Together.”

Each section is composed of several chapters containing interviews with experts, explanations, historical references and links to other sites. For example, anthropologist Dounia Bouzar explains how the Internet’s popularity allows jihadi recruiters to establish contacts, especially with young people.

“We are going to widely circulate this video on social networking sites in order to reach the most people who might be influenced by these claims and these sirens. We hope to create shock among them. And the site proposes solutions, remedies, and help for young people, their families and their friends,” said Christian Gravel, director of the Government Information Services. (SIG)

“Do they think they’ll scare or dissuade with such a site?” Asked Florian Philipport, Vice President of the FN. “Is this a firm enough response to the grave danger to which France is exposed? This communication operation only serves to mask the blatant inaction of those with political power,” he said.

In a Midi Libre poll, 71.6% of respondents said they don’t believe the government’s anti-jihad initiative will be effective, 18.6% think it will be, and 9.8% didn’t have an opinion.

French jihadists in Syria and Cyber-indoctrination

April 24, 2014 

Rising number of French nationals in Syria is more about teen angst than genuine religious convictions.

On April 23, the French government unveiled a dozen proposals aiming at limiting the number of French citizens travelling to Syria with the intent of fighting among Islamist radical groups. This text, which encompasses a large series of initiatives to reduce cyber-recruitment from violent “jihadist” movements, had been in the works for several months but became even timelier following the release of four French journalists kidnapped in Syria since June 2013. Part of the information discovered during the journalists’ debriefing was that several of the kidnappers spoke to the hostages in French and were likely French nationals fighting with radical groups in Syria.

The last few months have been marked by a surge of propaganda videos from exiled combatants originally from France or Belgium, posted online to attract new recruits. They showcase heavy military arsenal and the most horrendous crimes. It is estimated that between 500 and 700 of them have now joined the fighting in Syria, more than doubling their number over the last four months.

This phenomenon is not limited to France as every European country is concerned, but the new French Prime Minister, Manuel Valls – who developed the law proposal during his tenure as interior minister – is the first European head of government to implement a comprehensive legal and preventive arsenal against nationals leaving for Syria. This includes travel restrictions for minors out of French territory without parental authorisation, increased interaction between parents and police, judiciary measures against citizens “who have committed crimes in Syria… brutalities, acts of torture, acts of decapitation, or murder” and the dismantling of online jihadist networks usually targeting minors, following the model currently in place to fight human trafficking and pornographic material.

If the measures are reminiscent of those targeting child abductions and organised crime, it is due to the very young age of some of those “jihad candidates” which include some as young as 14 years old, who are motivated more by teenage angst amplified by violent video games than serious religious convictions.

Their knowledge of the conflicts in the Middle East is filled with biases and a desire for short-lived glory under the pretext of a religious war that most do not comprehend. Their understanding of Islam and the conflict in Syria is in most cases the result of a very recent indoctrination, devoid of any solid mastering of the holy texts and historical facts. This incongruity was reaffirmed by experts gathered at the Arab World Institute during the inauguration, on April 22, by French President Francois Hollande of an exhibition dedicated to the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca.

Contradictory profiles

What is also striking is the fact that the profiles of those foreign combatants contradict most prejudices. While the populist extreme right party led by Marine Le Pen has, as always, been quick to link this phenomenon to the immigrant population in France from North Africa and the French policy towards Syria, testimonies prove the opposite.

According to the Centre de Prevention Contre les Derives Sectaires Liees a l’Islam (CPDSI), a research centre recently created by anthropologist Dounia Bouzar, a former member of the French Council for the Muslim Faith, most French nationals volunteering to fight in the so-called “jihad” in Syria are actually not originally from traditional Muslim families. Two-thirds of them have been raised in family circles that did not dispense any religious teaching with parents describing themselves as atheists, with 80 percent of them being French nationals for more than three generations. Only 20 percent of the “jihad candidates” were raised in traditionally Muslim families, most of them not attending Friday prayer services, while 80 percent of those indoctrinated are below the age of 21.

Additional statistics show that more than one fourth of the candidates come from Seine St Denis, one of the 100 French departments known for its high rate of unemployment and family breakdown. Far from representing a radicalisation of Islam in France, the increasing number of French nationals in Syria is an epiphenomenon resulting from the enhanced capacity of transnational groups to entrap weak minds who have been dejected by the lack of economic growth in France over the last decades.

French ideals of revolution

As Mathieu Guidere, a professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Toulouse, puts it, the candidates for insurgency in Syria have to be analysed as a new wave of answers to the French ideal of revolution in which “each generation aims to wage its own”.

In the 1970s, dozens joined Fidel Castro or Che Guevara in South America against “American imperialism”. Yet today, in the absence of new revolutionary ideologies to counterbalance the often unegalitarian and ostracising meta-structure, armed conflict in the Middle East is perceived as the stage to wage one’s revolution.

Faced with this ideological vacuum, the idleness felt by the French youth and the surge of online indoctrination propaganda, the contributions of the French imams are essential to moderate the teaching of the Holy texts, confront the biased arguments of radical zealots and prevent the rise of terrorism inside and outside France. The problem is that the Muslim faith in France still suffers from its lack of institutionalisation.

The French model of secularism, which prohibits any collusion between religions and the French state, also prevented French governments from supporting the construction of much-needed mosques or financially contribute to the training of the Muslim establishment. This void has been easily exploited by transnational radical movements. The prevention and repression measures submitted by Valls’ government will only be effective if they are accompanied by additional support to the structuration efforts of the Muslim community.

French teenage girl caught heading for Syria jihad

March 2, 2014


A 14-year-old French girl was stopped at Lyon Airport, apparently heading for Syria to wage jihad. She is the third French minor to be found trying to fight holy war against Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

Earlier this week the girl, from the French city of Grenoble, told her parents via text message that she had been selected to join the jihad war in Syria and had run away from home. She was detained before boarding a plane bound with a one-way ticket for Istanbul, from where she intended to go to the Syrian border.

Investigators describe her as “heavily indoctrinated” and say that she keeps repeating that she was going to Turkey as a tourist.  Anthropologist Dounia Bouzar, author of the book Defusing Radical Islam, says the indoctrination of vulnerable teens has increased through the use of social networks and the internet .In her book , she explains how youth indoctrination linked to Islamism is a growing phenomenon in France

“I’ve been working on indoctrination techniques by radical Islamist for 10 years new,” she told RFI. “They used to affect only young and rather fragile people. Today they affect individuals from any social and family environment, people of any religion, atheists, agnostics, whether they practice their religion or not, poor, rich, privileged, educated … Anyone, really.”

About 700 French nationals are believed to have gone to fight in Syria. Two teenagers were brought back to France from Turkey in January.

“French society and politicians have failed to differentiate sect-like indoctrination and brainwashing by radical Islamists and Islam as a religion,” comments Bouzar. “That has led to many errors in appreciation and interpretation which have only been to the religious radicals’ advantage.”

The government is drawing up measures to tackle jihadi networks and intends to establish a for families to notify the authorities if their children seem to be becoming radicalised, so that they are prevented from leaving the country without their parents’ permission.


Source: http://www.english.rfi.fr/france/20140302-french-teenage-girl-caught-heading-syria-jihad

Zaman interview with Dounia Bouzar on radical Islam

January 16, 2014


Anthropologist of religion and expert at the National Observatory of Secularism, Dounia Bazar addresses the issue of radical Islam in her latest work, ‘Countering Radical Islam’ in which she delivers the fruits of her fifteen years of analyses on this minority phenomena that nonetheless often gets conflated with the entirety of the French Muslim population. In her interview with Zaman, Bouzar emphasizes that radicalism has nothing to do with Islam, but is the result of a psychological process.

Bouzar states that she wrote the book for two audiences: the Islamophobes and the Islamophiles (educators, intellectuals, non-Muslim thinkers of Islam). According to her, they are two sides of the same coin because both groups perceive Muslims as a homogenous entity, whether inferior or simply different, and ultimately they both contribute to the same line of thinking as the extreme right-wing party, the National Front.  Bouzar stresses how one needs to distinguish between Islam and its radical forms since maintaining the confusion benefits radicals and Islamophobes alikes.

Bouzar defines radical Islam as a discourse that relies on self-exclusion or the exclusion of others, and leads to a process of identity rupture. It deploys all the psychological tools of cultish movements: breaking with civilization, destruction of personal and family history, the myth of a purified group withholding ‘ultimate truth’, and the replacement of rationality with imitation. Young people under 30 in particular, who have no other form of religious transmission, are prone to being drawn to this kind of discourse on the internet.

Another characteristic of cultish movements is the establishment of indomitable symbolic barriers between members and the ‘evil’ society around them. This leads to an overt religious exhibition, such as the wearing of long beards and the niqab. These displays have nothing to do with testing the State, it is more about self-protection and the preservation of purity in today’s world in decline.  It also has nothing to do with Islamism – Islamists have a political agenda while radical puritans have an almost apocalyptical project to save the world.

Bouzar has in fact been a long-time supporter of religious visibility in France, and was one of the first to work on ‘Frenchisization’ of the headscarf. Taking into account that Islam is a culturally adaptable religion, and that the French wish to see a visibly ‘French woman’, Bouzar developed the idea of a scarf that would be esthetically compatible with France’s cultural heritage. She was equally against the move to ban headscarved mothers from participating in school trips, because it is precisely visibility – not hiding one’s Muslim identity due to already feeling at home – that is a sign of true integration.

Those attracted to extreme discourses have the feeling that society doesn’t offer them a place and role to play. Banning veiled mothers from schools sends precisely the message to children that their kind do not have place in society, and that they are in fact ‘banned’ from society.

Bouzar challenges the idea that French Muslims have an inherent sectarian attitude towards the rest of society. She affirms that a problem of social ghettoization exists, but it is not of the ghetto’s own accord. French Muslims in fact believe in the promises of the République, and the role of politicians should be to guarantee them a place in society.


Source: http://www.zamanfrance.fr/article/dounia-bouzar-on-diagnostique-lislam-radical-a-effets-rupture-7273.html?utm_source=newsletter-karisik-liste&utm_campaign=d99f3b8a60-Zamanfrance+17_01_2014&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_2d6e3a9a0e-d99f3b8a60-315962845&utm_source=newsletter-karisik-liste&utm_campaign=cf4a6c4c8f-Zamanfrance+21_01_2014&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_2d6e3a9a0e-cf4a6c4c8f-315948881

Anti-Muslim hate groups harass French anthropologist Dounia Bouzar

News Agencies – February 22, 2011

The vehicle and motorcycle of French anthropologist Dounia Bouzar were vandalized outside of her Parisian residence. Several inflammatory texts were included. The French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM) has publicly condemned the vandalism and remarks.

French anthropologist Dounia Bouzar says Islam portrayed as “behind” in France

In this interview published in Le Monde with questions from the newspaper’s readership, Dounia Bouzar suggests that Islam in France is compatible with secularism and modernity, but that the media has erroneously reported that it’s evolutionarily behind. She claims that the reason why 57 percent of the French agree with the possibility of a law banning the burqa is because the equate the garment with radicalism, and answers a variety of other questions.

New rights emerge for Muslims in the workplace, in hospitals

According to Le Figaro, in the auditions for the use of the burqa and the niqab in France, several French deputies have reported a rise in the number of cases of rights being claimed by Muslims in workplaces, whether it be halal-appropriate menus, or not wanting to eat lunch with those who eat pork.

The rising number of demands is becoming problematic for heads of companies, claims anthropologist Dounia Bouzar in Allah a-t-il sa place dans l’entreprise? (or “Is there room for Allah in the Workplace?”) (Albin Michel, 2009). These “incidents” are particularly common within public hospitals.

French businesses respond to a growing number of Muslim employees

According to a new study on the workforce and Muslims in France published by anthropologist Dounia Bouzar, Allah a-t-il sa place dans l’entreprise? (Albin Michel, 2009), there are growing tensions related to requests for absenteeism on religious holidays. One third of French businesses, largely in the Parisian region, feel concerned about the matter. Bouzar also claims that the headscarf in particular has caused tensions.

Dounia Bouzar claims that to Refuse the Burqa is to Respect Islam

Dounia Bouzar, a French anthropologist who specializes in examining French-born and raised Muslims and former member of the French Council for the Muslim Faith (CFCM), claims that Muslim sects, particularly the conservative Salafists, take advantage of the general ignorance about Islam in France to multiply within families. Bouzar claims that these conservative Muslim groups become most powerful when they alienate individuals from those who are normally central to their socialization – their teachers, educators, parents and even, imams. Author of L’Islam, l’intégrisme et nous (Plon, 2007), Bouzar concludes that being shocked by the burqa is to respect Islam, because it means that the religious tradition does not espouse such “archaic practices”.

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Businesses Face Muslim Practices

The National Association of Human Resources Directors (L’Association nationale des directeurs des ressources humaines) has taken up the question of religious claims in the workplace, particularly for Muslims. For instance, Hamid, an employee of the Paris Airport, recently refused to move carts full of alcohol to airplanes claiming it was against his religious beliefs. Several large French companies like L`Or_al, Gaz de France, Total, and Vinci have participated for the last year with a group organized by the Association of Dynamic Diversity (L`association Dynamique Diversit_) led by anthropologist Dounia Bouzar to discuss these issues. Companies have begun making accommodations: employees often have to right to absent themselves on A_d-el-Kebir and many have created prayer rooms.