- The report implies that deradicalization, either in specialized centers or in prisons, does not work because most Islamic radicals do not want to be deradicalized.
- Although France is home to an estimated 8,250 hardcore Islamic radicals, only 17 submitted applications and just nine arrived. Not a single resident has completed the full ten-month curriculum.
- By housing Islamists in separate prison wings, they actually had become more violent because they were emboldened by "the group effect," according to Justice Minister Jean-Jacques Urvoas.
- "Deradicalizing someone does not happen in six months. These people, who have not been given an ideal and who have clung to Islamic State's ideology, are not going to get rid of it just like that. There is no 'Open Sesame.'" — Senator Esther Benbassa.
- "The deradicalization program is a total fiasco. Everything must be rethought, everything must be redesigned from scratch." — Senator Philippe Bas, the head of the Senate committee that commissioned the report.
The French government's flagship program to deradicalize jihadists is a "total failure" and must be "completely reconceptualized,"
The preliminary report reveals that the government has nothing to show for the tens of millions of taxpayer euros it has spent over the past several years to combat Islamic radicalization in France, where 238 people have been killed in jihadist attacks since January 2015. The report implies that deradicalization, either in specialized centers or in prisons, does not work because most Islamic radicals do not want to be deradicalized.
The report, "Deindoctrination, Derecruitment and Reintegration of Jihadists in France and Europe" (Désendoctrinement, désembrigadement et réinsertion des djihadistes en France et en Europe) — the title avoids using the word "deradicalization" because it is considered by some to be politically incorrect — was presented to the Senate Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs on February 22.
The report is the preliminary version of a comprehensive study currently being conducted by a cross-party task force charged with evaluating the effectiveness of the government's deradicalization efforts. The final report is due in July.
Much of the criticism focuses on a €40 million ($42 million)
The original plan, which was
The government's first — and, until now, only — deradicalization center, housed in the Château de Pontourny, an isolated 18th-century manor in central France,
When Senators Esther Benbassa and Catherine Troendlé, both of whom are leading the task force, visited Pontourny on February 3, they found only one resident at the facility. That individual has since been
After just five months of operation, Pontourny is now empty, even though it
The Château de Pontourny "Center for Prevention, Integration and Citizenship," in France. (Image source: 28 minutes - ARTE video screenshot)
Although France is home to an
One of the residents was a 24-year-old jihadist named Mustafa S., who was
Another one of the residents of Pontourny was a 24-year-old pregnant woman named Sabrina C., who lived in the facility from September 19 to December 15. She
"At no time did I feel interested in any religion whatsoever. My family is Catholic, non-practicing, we go to church from time to time, but no more. My boyfriend wanted me to wear the headscarf, but I always refused."
The government has also failed in its efforts to stamp out Islamic radicalization in French prisons. In October 2016, the government
The original idea was to isolate Islamists to keep them from radicalizing other inmates, but Justice Minister Jean-Jacques Urvoas
The report also
Benbassa said that the government's deradicalization program was ill-conceived and rushed for political reasons amid a growing jihadist threat. "The government was in panic as a result of the jihadist attacks," she
French-Iranian Sociologist Farhad Khosrokhavar, an expert in radicalization,
"Some people can be deradicalized, but not everyone. It's impossible with the hardcore jihadists, those who are totally convinced. These types of profiles are very dangerous and represent about 10% to 15% of those who have been radicalized. Prison might be one of the only ways of dealing with these die-hard believers."
"Young candidates for jihadism must be socialized. We must teach them a profession, professionalize them and offer them an individualized follow-up. This involves the help of the family, imams, local police officers, educators, psychologists and business leaders, who can also intervene....
"I also think that our political leaders should adopt a little sobriety and humility when approaching this complex phenomenon. The task is extremely difficult. 'Deradicalizing' someone does not happen in six months. These people, who have not been given an ideal and who have clung to Islamic State's ideology, are not going to get rid of it just like that. There is no 'Open Sesame.'"
Senator Philippe Bas, the head of the Senate committee that commissioned the report,