The French government plans to open a rehabilitation centre for young Muslims who have been radicalised by Salafists, but critics are wary of the programme.
The “Centre for Prevention, Reintegration, and Citizenship” is a new project designed by the French government to aid in the deradicalisation of young Muslims who have been flagged as showing sympathies for the extremist Salafist ideology or terror groups like Islamic State.
The centre has been built in an area of rural France, but many locals aren’t happy about a gathering of known radical Islamists in their hometown, reports Kurier. Some have even referred to the centre as a “summer camp for Islamists.”
Local prefect Louis Lefranc claims that the men who will be attending the centre are all young Muslim men aged 18 to 30-years-old who have rejected Salafism and are seeking help to pry themselves from the radical Islamist scene. “It’s about young people who are radicalised and want to get away from it,” he said claiming that the men had all broken off ties from their family and social circles in order to deradicalise.
The centre itself resembles a mix of a wellness retreat and a prison. The rooms look like college dorms, though the windows are barred in order to prevent any of the young Muslims from escaping. They also have access to a large garden at the rural Pontourny castle where the centre is based near the city of Tours.
The days for the men are strict and regimented. Each man must be up at 6:45 in the morning, and all are made to put on uniforms adorned with symbols of the French republic like the French tricolour flag. The men are instructed in various classrooms on the subjects of religion, philosophy, and history, supervised constantly by a team of social workers, doctors, and psychologists.
The local residents of Beaumont-en-Veron, where the castle is located, are much less enthusiastic about the centre believing that having a large contingent of self-admitted radical Islamists may pose a danger to their town. Authorities have tried to assuage public fear by saying that all of the men will be screened to ensure they have no ties to groups who have committed or plan to commit attacks in France.
The radicalisation of young Muslim men has become a top concern for authorities across Europe as more underage Muslims have carried out attacks and acts of terror in Germany and elsewhere. Police see the influence of Islamic State via the internet as a key challenge in the near future along with an increasing number of underage Muslim migrants who may be angered that Europe isn’t the paradise they were previously promised by people smugglers.
An Islamic scholar in France recently warned that the third generation of young Muslim men could be even more dangerous calling them “generation Jihad”, and saying that left unchecked they could lead Europe down the path of civil war.