The 'beards' are active behind bars. According to a confidential (confidential defense) report of the French prison administration (AP) seen by Le Figaro, at least 442 Islamists imprisoned in France exhibit worrying behavior. Among them, 78 arrested for acts of terrorism and six Islamo-thieves convicted for their logistical support networks.
Agents of the prison intelligence service also identified 147 prisoners who are involved in "operational activities of proselytizing". In short: a new generation fanning the flames of Jihad.
These clandestine religious men are radicalized by surfing the Internet, says one senior source of the AP. Far from being experts of the Koran, they distill passages of the suras which can reference violence and use medieval speech to convert their fellow cell-mates.
Their target? At least 211 prisoners are "in the process of radical Islamization," according to the report. It's more than 80% of the French of North African origin. Their low cultural level makes them receptive to the talk about destroying the West. Among the recruits there are also about 10% of young people with higher education, according to an expert.
An anti-terrorism magistrate says that many of their files there are now France born converts, for the most part, in prison. He says that it's a real concern. If the radical elements are put in the same area, they eventually conspire. And if they are spread out, they infect the other prisoners. The technique consists of moving them regularly to prevent links from consolidating, explains researcher Farhad Khosrokhavar, author of 'L'Islam dans les prisons' (Islam in the prisons)
Concerned about improving the detection of at risk individuals, the Interior Minister, Michèle Alliot-Marie, will present on Sept. 30th at the national security college (Institut national des hautes études de sécurité, Inhes) a 60 page handbook on "fundamentalism in prison". This guide will be given to the 24,000 guards in French prisons, police and anti-terrorism magistrates.
An interior ministry official says that for the first time the Algerian security service were involved in the effort. The document dissects the process of radicalization step by step. It stresses the weight of origins, of the city, school dropouts and the marginalization of certain populations, which justifies their root community and their hate for Western democratic values, says an official at the unit for coordinating the anti-terrorism efforts (Unité de coordination de lutte antiterroriste, UCLAT)
Then it draws up a list of 23 indicators to identify deviant conduct: besides ostentatious display of logos referencing al-Qaida of the Islamic Maghreb or a picture of Bin Laden on the cell walls, it includes reading certain religious works, refusing to walk with other prisoners, starting to eat together or wanting to ensure that their hours of prayers are scrupulously observed.
An official from the interior ministry says that they want to put an end to the continuous challenges that those prisoners pose to the prison authority and to replace Sharia with the prison regulations.
A 20 page appendix includes the logos, symbols and signs of belonging to the al-Qaida movement. The aim is to reveal the outlines and practices so as to better combat it.
Sociologist Farhad Khosrokhavar says that this initiative at the least has the merit of raising public and personnel awareness, but the lack of Muslim chaplains in prisons encourages the emergence of this hidden and belligerent Islam. While half the prisoners are Muslims, he says, only 100 imams work in French prisons compared with 600 Christian chaplains. Islam remains, in the mind of many detainees, the 'religion of the oppressed'.