“We must not wait for the switch to take place”
How to define religious radicalization?
Hasna Hussein: Radicalization is often defined as the articulation between extremist ideology and violent action. But one can adhere to a radical ideology without engaging in violent action. Hence the importance of distinguishing religious fundamentalism from jihadist radicalization. Among other factors, the relationship to otherness and the legitimization of violence against others can help identify radicalization.. In fundamentalist texts or speeches, those of the “quietist” Salafists for example, the other constitutes a threat to doctrine, which requires setting aside (except in the perspective of converting him). In the jihadist corpus, the other threatens the purity and the very existence of the adherent. It should therefore be exterminated when possible.
Where does communitarianism stop and where does radicalization begin?
HH: Communitarianism is when the laws of community and religion are applied before those of the Republic. When a public official does not respect the secular context and neutrality by praying in the corridors, for example. Radicalization goes further: the individual has an extremist vision of the world and will act from that vision. From a security point of view, it is identified by signals and behaviors considered to be extreme compared to what is the norm: the use of violent words for example.
Where are we in the prevention of radicalization?
HH: In France, it is structured around three levels. Primary prevention, of an educational and social nature, targets a wide audience among young people. Secondary prevention targets vulnerable young people or delinquents. Finally, tertiary prevention fights against recidivism, mainly in prisons. These policies have been implemented since 2014, which is relatively recent. It is difficult to take stock.
All the same, can we say that we have made progress since 2015?
HH: Yes, we have made progress. In 2015, public policies were locked into the paradigm of “Mental hold”. Radicalization was seen as the result of mental disorder and sectarian takeover. It was insufficient to identify the phenomenon. Radicalization is multifactorial: it is not just a matter of influence, of a post-colonial reality, of the Islamization of radicalism or of the radicalization of Islam… It can be all of these at the same time. One factor may also be more salient than the others, depending on the individual. The configurations are multiple and complex.
The problem in 2015 was that the promoters of the different visions of radicalization came into conflict. They have often sought to be right on their own, for symbolic and / or economic considerations, to the detriment of the general interest. The authorities have therefore been slow to realize the complexity of radicalization. And there were new attacks, new victims …
What can we make progress on today?
HH: On primary prevention. The state clearly has not invested as much as it should have. Efforts in the training of youth professionals and relevant public officials have been made, but remain insufficient. I regularly intervene in middle and high schools, and there is still a certain denial of radicalization, for fear of marginalization, of amalgamation, of tarnishing the image of such or such establishment …
School officials called me about incidents that punctuated the minute’s silence (in tribute to the teacher Samuel Paty assassinated in Conflans, Editor’s note) to put in place response and prevention strategies. We work too often once the problems have arisen. When I offer prevention workshops, many managers still answer me: “We are not confronted with this phenomenon. “
But it is precisely at this time that we must begin prevention and develop a critical mind, to avoid swings into cyberviolence and conspiracy theories. We must no longer wait for a deleterious process to take place before intervening.