Islamist Extremism in France Part I: Permanent Threat

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In 732 A.D., the town of Sens in Burgundy was invaded by the troops of Abd el-Rahman as a diversionary tactic to divide the French armies who went on to defeat the Saracens at the Battle of Poitiers. Thirteen centuries later the town again made the history books when it issued the first curfew of the state of emergency declared in France on November 20, 2015 a number of days after the Paris attacks.

The curfew followed raids in the Champs-Plaisants district that uncovered stockpiles of weapons and fake identity papers.

Two weeks later, French law enforcement raided the Lagny-sur-Marne mosque east of Paris and seized a revolver, a hard disk and jihadist documents. The raid led to nine house arrests and travel bans against 22 people. The ex-president of the Lagny Muslim Association had already fled to Egypt in December 2014 with 10 members of his congregation.

Two other mosques were closed down in Lyon and Gennevilliers, a northern suburb of Paris. Within three weeks of the state of emergency being declared, police carried out 2,235 raids, detained 232 people and seized 234 weapons. This was the first phase in uncovering the radical Islamic ecosystem financed by foreign states and crime that spread throughout France from the 1990s.

The November 2015 and January 2016 attacks came as no surprise to French security services, who warned in early 2015 that thousands of Islamic radicals “willing and able to out-wait the capacity of the state to dedicate scarce resources to watching them” were ready to strike.

That assessment proved to be correct. France is now confronted with a permanent threat from a section of its population. Despite the deployment of 10,000 troops and 100,000 police, more attacks will occur. French people no longer live in security in their own country, thanks to 50 years of bad policy decisions.

The Kervenanec district of Lorient is one of France’s 762 zones euphemistically labelled as a  “Sensitive Area” by the interior ministry, where crime has reached critical proportions. Lorient is also a stronghold of radical Islam. The number of mosques serving Brittany’s 180,000 Muslims doubled from 27 in 2003 to 53 in 2015.

The Pontanézen mosque is run by Salafist Imam Rachid Abou Houdeyfa, notorious for indoctrinating children. In one class he taught that “people who listen to music will be turned into monkeys and pigs.”

More and more young Bretons are converting to Islam and repudiating their families. At least 15 are fighting in Syria and Iraq. The DGSI (secret service) is currently investigating over 100 individuals linked to jihadist networks.

Indigenous Bretons are up in arms, notably sheep farmers, because of widespread sheep-rustling in the weeks leading up to the Islamic feast of Aïd-el-Kebir. Around 120,000 sheep are ritually slaughtered each year in France, often illegally and with great cruelty, in homes and apartments.

The scourge of radical Islam that is sweeping France is impacting children, adolescents and teenagers. In January 2015 pupils at Daniel-Mayer junior high school in the 18th Paris district  brandished knives and meat cleavers in a rap video posted on YouTube. Further south, a 13- year-old boy was arrested in Ariane, a suburb of Nice. He fired a dozen shots with an airgun at a nursery school playground, wounding two girls aged four and five, in the head and back. These incidents demonstrate that the culture of jihad is spreading like wildfire among the children of a section of the French population.

In another case, a 15-year-old pupil shouting “Allah Akbar” fired an airgun at his physics teacher and threatened to kill his French teacher. The same day Le Parisien newspaper revealed that over 50% of French schoolteachers have taken out insurance against the risk of violence involving pupils and parents. Aside from private schools and state schools in middle-class areas, the French education system has become a difficult and dangerous place to work.

Meanwhile, the government continues to relax standards to accommodate unruly pupils with no interest in learning, and Islam has become a standard part of the curriculum. An exercise in the French 7th grade history course requires pupils to answer six questions on Rewards for Combatants of Islam. It reads :

“Not equal are those of the believers who sit at home and those who strive hard and fight in the Cause of Allah with their wealth and lives. Allah has preferred in grades those who strive hard and fight with their wealth and lives above those who sit at home. Unto each, Allah has promised good, but Allah has preferred those who strive hard and fight, above those who sit at home, by a huge reward.”

Is there a valid reason that 12-year-old children should be memorizing the tenets of jihad?

On March 5, 2016, two adolescents travelled to Syria thanks to the fatal cocktail of jihad and social media. With 1,000 cases of radicalization of high school students identified in 2015 and over 7,000 cases involving those under 21, the growing alienation of French Muslim youth bodes ill for the future stability and security of French society.

Over 1,000 French jihadists are flagged by law enforcement, some of whom participated in a dozen attacks against France from 2012 to 2015. The number is likely to increase exponentially in the coming years, powered by the internet.


Leslie Shaw is an Associate Professor at the Paris campus of ESCP Europe Business School and President of FIRM (Forum on Islamic Radicalism and Management).

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