France Clamps Down on Radical Islam in Prisons, Schools

France announced on Friday that it would seal off extremists within prisons and open new centres to reintegrate returning extremists into society as part of a plan to check the spread of radical Islam.

This is the latest measure taken by the French government as it tries to halt the drift towards extremism of young people growing up on the margins of society where organisations like the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group or Al-Qaeda recruit.

Unveiling the plan Friday, French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said it aims to draw lessons from past failures, after three years marked by a series of devastating attacks that left over 240 people dead, AFP writes.

“No one has a magic formula for ‘deradicalisation’ as if you might de-install dangerous software,” Philippe said in the northern city of Lille where he presented his strategy, flanked by a dozen ministers.

“But in France and elsewhere there are good approaches to prevention and disengagement.”

To prevent extremism spreading further, Philippe said he would create 1,500 places in separate prison wings “especially for radicalised inmates” as some of the Islamists behind attacks in recent years first came under the spell of hardliners.

He also announced plans for three new centres that will attempt to reintegrate radicals referred by French courts, including extremists returning from fallen ISIS strongholds in the Middle East.

A total of 512 people are currently serving time for terrorism offences in France and a further 1,139 prisoners have been flagged up as being radicalised.

Other measures to be adopted in the new scheme include:

– Investments in psychological care for returning children of extremists. So far 68 children have been repatriated, most of them under 13.

– Tighter controls on private Islamic schools which have grown rapidly in number in recent years.

– More training for teachers to help them detect early signs of radicalisation and to debunk conspiracy theories.

– More investment in teaching students to separate fact from rumour on the Internet.

– Making it easier to reassign public servants that show signs of radicalisation to jobs that do not involve contact with the public.

France is a strategic partner of Nigeria in the fight against radical Islam, and it can only be hoped that some of these new measures are adopted here given the resurgence of Boko Haram and the growing menace of Fulani herdsmen.

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