Writing the book in the fight against radicalisation

The handbook is meant to raise educators’ awareness and ensure they recognise when a student shows signs of radicalisation.
Thursday 22/11/2018
Pressing issue. SG-CIPDR Secretary-General Muriel Domenach during a news conferenceat Beaumont-en-Veron near Chinon in central France. (AFP)
Pressing issue. SG-CIPDR Secretary-General Muriel Domenach during a news conference at Beaumont-en-Veron near Chinon in central France. (AFP)

TUNIS - The Counter Extremism Project (CEP) introduced a practical handbook for educators to combat early signs of radicalisation in French youth during a discussion on “Secularism and Prevention of Radicalisation.”

An increasing number of young people in France are being radicalised by recruitment campaigns put in place by terrorist organisations.

“Adolescents and young adults are the most exposed to this threat and it is to them that priority is given,” CEP’s website stated. “When students become radicalised, teachers often feel helpless.”

The handbook is meant to raise educators’ awareness and ensure they recognise when a student shows signs of radicalisation. The signs range from a student putting religious affiliation above his French citizenship when identifying with a group to a student exhibiting “sudden, excessive and exclusive interest” in a religion or ideology.

The guide also provides teachers with knowledge and tools to be proactive when faced with sensitive situations and polarising topics.

The 62-page handbook, produced in collaboration with the Interministerial Committee for the Prevention of Delinquency and Radicalisation (SG-CIPDR) and the European Foundation for Democracy, answers questions teachers may have, including how to interact with students on sensitive topics such as religious fundamentalism or conflicts in the Middle East, the website stated.

Among the speakers at the event November 13 in Paris was SG-CIPDR Secretary-General Muriel Domenach, who stressed the importance of forming a community with local officials and civil society actors with a priority on “prevention of radicalisation among the youngest of society.”

“Faced with radicalisation, we must give ourselves the means to fight, prevent and reintegrate,” she said. “This is a fight that the French state leads with determination across all areas.”

Domenach pointed to the need for teachers to understand the media and online activity as it pertains to attacks on secularism and the early signs of radicalisation.

Roundtable moderator Jean-Charles Brisard, president of the Centre for the Analysis of Terrorism and senior adviser to CEP, said it was important to combat dangerous speech conveyed online by involving young people in constructive dialogue.

Brisard cautioned that detection and prevention are only a start. “This handbook is a tool and not an end in itself,” he said.

Several experts on the topics of radicalisation and education spoke at the event, including Seraphin Alava, a professor of education at Toulouse 2 University and a member of the UNESCO Chair in the Prevention of Violent Radicalisation and Extremism, and Toufik Bouarfa, a counsellor at the European Foundation for Democracy.

The CEP website described the group as “an international, non-partisan, non-profit organisation created to combat the growing threat of extremist ideologies.”

The handbook is the result of years of research by authors Bouarfa and Francesco Farinelli, a researcher and a member of the EU Commission’s Radicalisation Awareness Network Expert Pool.

It is available to French teachers online and hard copies will be distributed to educators throughout the country.

Brisard said he was pleased with how the handbook came together and was hopeful about versions being created for other countries.

“It’s clearly a first step for us and we will look to replicate and adapt the handbook in other European countries,” Brisard said.

“(Youth radicalisation) is not just an issue in France.”

Cover of the 62-page handbook that was introduced by the Counter Extremism Project.
Cover of the 62-page handbook that was introduced by the Counter Extremism Project.