French retools anti-extremism efforts after public failures (The Daily Mail, 29 mars 2017)

« LENS, France (AP) – France’s attempts to counter the radicalization of its young people are in turmoil, with a group home intended to turn them away from Islamic extremism empty, the head of a highly publicized nonprofit convicted of misuse of public funds, and plans to segregate prison inmates suspected of harboring jihadi ideas abandoned.

The results are both disappointing and unsurprising, according to a French senator who co-wrote a recent report highly critical of an effort she says was devised in haste and has been a waste of money.

« We spread money around because we didn’t have time and we had to communicate something, we had to show something, » Sen. Esther Benbassa, whose report last month concluded that the country’s de-radicalization efforts so far were largely ineffective, said. « The time that this takes to work is long, very long. »

The backtracking takes on added significance as recent attacks, including last week’s rampage in London and the previous week’s attempted on soldiers at Paris’ Orly airport, were carried out by ex-convicts who may have been radicalized behind bars.

France is not the only country reconsidering how it responds to radicalization. Britain’s contentious Prevent program, which seeks to identify residents at risk of being radicalized, has come under criticism by rights groups and an expert for the United Nations who said it stifles free speech.

France’s experiments with preventing radicalization were conceived during a literal state of emergency following the extremist attacks on the staff of Charlie Hebdo magazine and a kosher supermarket in January 2015 and the Paris bombings and shootings that left 130 dead 10 months later. The ad hoc attempts focused on the prison system, a key incubator for many would-be jihadis, and programs that tried to target those already on the path to extremism. […]

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