French imams, chaplains seek ways to combat Islamist radicalisation

Thu Jun 19, 2014 4:50pm EDT
 
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By Tom Heneghan

PARIS (Reuters) - Islamic prayer leaders and prison chaplains in France, jolted by a French Islamist's killing spree at the Brussels Jewish Museum, have begun discussing ways to better fight the decimalization of young Muslims here.

About 30 imams from southeastern France, meeting in Avignon on Wednesday, said action was urgently needed because about 300 young French Muslims are reported to have left their region to fight alongside jihadist forces in Syria.

Their meeting, which debated practical options such as surveillance cameras in mosques to spot jihadi recruiters and centrally written sermons for Friday prayers, will be followed by further sessions in other regions in the coming months.

Muslim chaplains in prisons, a fertile ground for recruiting young men to Islamist radicalism, met in Paris last weekend to urge the state to expand their ranks by helping train them and then paying them basic salaries for working with prisoners.

"There are young men in my neighborhood leaving for Syria. We need a joint effort to fight against that," Farid Darrouf, an imam from Montpellier, told French radio in Avignon.

"We've had 300 people leave for Syria from PACA," said Carpentras imam Khalid Belkhadir, referring to the Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur region in southeastern France. "That really set the alarm bells ringing for us."

The flow of European Muslim radicals to Syria and the May 24 killing of four people at the Brussels Jewish Museum, presumably by a 29-year-old French Muslim who did five stints in French jails before fighting in Syria, has alarmed European officials.

British Prime Minister David Cameron and German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere both warned this week against the danger presented by European jihadists who return home from fighting in Syria.   Continued...

 
Apolin Pepiezep (C), lawyer of Mehdi Nemmouche, 29, the French national who is suspected of the shooting attack in the Brussels Jewish Museum last month that left four people dead, speaks to the journalists after a hearing for his client's extradition outside the Appeal Court of Versailles, near Paris, June 12, 2014.  REUTERS/Benoit Tessier