France’s problem: up to half its prisoners are Muslim and the jails are a hotbed for radicalization


From the National Post of Canada.

The attack on the magazine, which left 12 dead, and Coulibaly’s apparently coordinated actions, which resulted in the deaths of a police officer Thursday and four hostages Friday, highlight the growing problem of radicalization among young, disenfranchised French Muslims.

The Kouachis — Said, 34, and Chérif, 32 — and Coulibaly, 32, were born in France, but struggled to find a place as they came of age in the suburbs outside Paris. Coulibaly befriended Chérif Kouachi around 2005 when they were imprisoned in Fleury-Mérogis, south of Paris. Kouachi had been arrested as he prepared to leave for Iraq to join insurgents battling U.S. forces.

In prison they met Djamel Beghal, who was serving a sentence for a plot to bomb the U.S. embassy in Paris. Beghal would become something of a mentor, and in 2010 all three were arrested for a plot to break another jihadi, Smain Ait Ali Belkacem, out of prison.

Beghal, the ringleader, remains in prison. Coulibaly was sentenced to five years, but with time served was released last year. Charges against Chérif Kouachi were dismissed, although the prosecutor said he was committed to radical Islam and believed in the legitimacy of armed jihad.

The radicalization of incarcerated young men is a recognized problem in a country where Muslims make up a disproportionate share of the prison population. Statistics based on religion or ethnicity are not kept, but researchers estimate between a third and a half of French prisoners are Muslim. France has the largest Muslim population in Europe, but Muslims still make up less than 10% of the overall French population.

In 2013, Manuel Valls, French interior minister at the time, spoke of the “enemy within” after it emerged Mohamed Merah, who killed four Jews and three soldiers in Toulouse in 2012 before being shot by police, had become radicalized while jailed for theft.

“They start with petty crime, move on to drug trafficking, sometimes prison, leading to conversion to radical Islam and hatred for the West,” Mr. Valls, now prime minister, told Le Parisien. “There are several dozen Merahs in France today. Not all of them take action, but we have to guard against it.”

This week’s assaults by homegrown Islamist terrorists are expected to boost the fortunes of Marine Le Pen’s anti-immigrant, far-right National Front. But it would take a seismic shift to vault the party into power. 


One Response

  1. Well, France, just like we have here in America: You let them in, so now you hav2e to deal with them. Let this be a lesson.

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