French Political Party, the UMP, launches website to debate the Burqa

Led by Jean-François Copé, Nicolas Sarkozy’s political party, the UMP or the Union for a Popular Movement, has launched a website to consider and debate the niqab and burqa in the Republic: The website includes polls, definitions, video stream and position pieces by elected officials, as well as additional information links on the subject.

Reaction to the website has been mixed. Farhad Khosrokhavar, sociologist and director of the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, notes how the website makes the phenomenon appear far more widespread than it is.

Report From the Penitentiary Administration Warns of Islamic Fundamentalism in French Jails

A new “confidential defense” report from the Penitentiary Administration of France claims that 442 “Islamicists” currently incarcerated have a worrisome comportment. Le Figaro reports that one highly ranked official told the newspaper that these “secretive religious inmates have radicalized themselves by surfing the Internet,” and far from learning and teaching from the Qur’an they are “distilling fragments of certain surahs which make reference to violence” to inspire their cellmates.

Farhad Khosrokhavar, author of L’Islam dans les prisons (2004; “Islam in Prisons”) claims the best way to avoid the growth of such radicalism is to move prisoners regularly so that ties cannot be strengthened among them. Khosrokhavar also notes the lack of Muslim chaplains in the country’s prison system; there are currently 600 Christian chaplains available to inmates.

In an effort to ameliorate the detection of individuals at risk for religious radicalism, the French Minister of the Interior Michèle Alliot-Marie will present a 60 page manual on “Fundamentalism in the Prison System” to the Institut National des Hautes Études de Sécurité (Inhes or the National Institute of Advanced Security Studies ) on 30 September 2008. The document will then be distributed among the 24 000 prison guards, police officers and to anti-terrorist judges who have contact with inmates, and includes information of indicators of radicalism and a list of logos and references to watch for.