A report published in July by a commission of inquiry of the French Senate, the upper house of the French Parliament, has found that "Islamist radicalization" is a "reality" in France. Pictured: The Palais du Luxembourg in Paris, where the French Senate is located. (Photo: Lionel Bonaventure/AFP via Getty Images)
A report published in July by a commission of inquiry of the French Senate, the upper house of the French Parliament, has found that "Islamist radicalization" is a "reality" in France. The commission of inquiry, made up of approximately thirty senators, interviewed a large number of researchers, politicians and other experts on the subject.
The commission found the consequences of radicalization alarming, particularly the "dissemination of behaviors that... directly affect freedom of conscience, equality between men and women, and the rights of homosexual persons".
"[T]his religious revival, for some, is accompanied by a desire to affirm their belief in the public space, in the company, in the school, and of recognition by institutions and public services, which conflicts with the laws of the Republic and secularism".
"Radical Islamism", states the report, "is polymorphic, insinuating itself into all aspects of social life and tending to impose a new social norm...."
"Above all, we are witnessing the constitution in certain neighborhoods of an Islamist ecosystem made up of shops, food, clothing, as well as drinking establishments based on a halal standard... Reinforced by propaganda using the learning of Koranic Arabic, the dissemination of extremist literature in specialized bookstores and on market stalls, the desire to impose radical Islam is also based on a discourse... on the internet and social networks... It is a matter, through social and ideological pressure, of enclosing the lives of inhabitants of these neighborhoods, to disqualify any other perspective, to separate from their fellow citizens..."
The report also mentions the role of mosques in the growth of Islamist radicalization:
"France has large mosques, capable of accommodating more than a thousand faithful during Friday prayers... The construction of religious buildings is a vector in its own right of the assertion of Islam in French society. Capable of raising the capital necessary for these constructions, Islam is, contrary to popular belief, a 'rich' religion".
The report quotes former Prefect Michel Aubouin, who said that, "the construction of each mosque has cost an average of over 2 million euros", so that all of these religious buildings represent "financial capital of several billion euros".
In addition, according to the report:
"A growing fringe of Muslims are also observing all the theological precepts: daily prayers, wearing the veil, the necessary distance between men and women, respect for food prohibitions, so many rules that Islam places in the public space".
All this, according to the report, means that French society must face "a reality, sometimes disputed and too long underestimated: French society must now face the challenge of 'Islamism' as an ideology". Aubouin is further quoted as saying, "It may anger my former colleagues, I will answer you sincerely: there is a form of myopia and a great ignorance of political Islam."
The report, on page 51, goes on to describe what it sees as the political ambitions of extremists:
"The Islamists... are now trying to get into the political game by using democratic institutions to promote their societal project, despite their lack of representativeness; at the same time, the will of successive governments to institutionalize an Islam of France gives them the opportunity to become legitimate and privileged interlocutors of power".
The report quotes, among many others, Alexandre del Valle and Emmanuel Razavi, authors of the book The Project: The Strategy of Conquest and Infiltration of the Muslim Brotherhood in France and in the World (2019).
"According to the authors, 'the re-Islamization of France is a symbol for the Muslim Brotherhood.' If the Islamists manage to achieve it in the universal homeland of human rights, then the project will have succeeded. 'They want to bring down the Republic'".
The report quotes another expert, Mohammed Sifaoui: "Under the guise of Islamophobia, political Islam was able to thrive by making people believe it could be nonviolent". As the report points out:
"The religious communitarianism of the Muslim Brotherhood in French society... is not about living in the margin, but [about] penetrating all fields of social and political life, especially since the Brotherhood is part of a long-term logic".
As Naëm Bestandji, one of the founders of the group "Ni putes ni soumises" ("Neither whores nor submissives"), who was also interviewed for the report, points out:
"Islamism is fundamentalism. The political project... does not fit into the temporality of our policies, but over several generations... They are not opposed to society, they want to invest in it: unions, schools, associations, etc., to make their values prevail..."
According to Bestandji, this precept also holds true for electoral politics:
"The Islamists have chosen two methods: create their own lists or infiltrate the lists of other parties... They are not in a timeframe of three to four years, but they consider that the fertility intrinsic to the Muslim community is an exponential factor for the electoral mass, until the day when they reach critical mass and can constitute a political party".
Nadia Remadna, president of the organization "Brigade of Mothers", who was also interviewed for the report, spoke along the same lines: "The Islamists constitute an army which prepares the field. They work with young people and are in a long-term dynamic."
The report concludes that there is a risk of political infiltration from extremists in general and the Muslim Brotherhood in particular, especially in municipal councils.
The report sets forth 44 proposals in a multi-pronged effort to deal with radicalism. These include measures to combat the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood, such as introducing a ban against Youssef al-Qaradawi, the spiritual leader of the organization, and other Muslim Brotherhood ideologues; boosting intelligence in order the better to detect Islamist radicalism, and improved training of elected and local officials on secularism and radical Islam. The report also suggests proceeding more systematically, such as dissolving associations that disseminate incitement, discrimination, hatred, and violence. The senators are also calling for religious associations to be transparent about their resources, especially those coming from abroad. Any association wishing to benefit from grants from local communities would also have to commit to "signing a charter including respect for the values of the Republic".
At the same time, France's new Prime Minister, Jean Castex, recently said that he would be "uncompromising" in the defense of France's official secularism, and promised to fight "radical Islamism in all its forms" as "an absolute priority".
Senator LR Jacqueline Eustache-Brinio said in July, "all of France, except the West, is affected by radical Islam... We have to act now or never".
John Richardson is a researcher based in the United States.