Radical Islam Spreads in Prisons of France

Overcrowded Jails Are Breeding Grounds for Jihadists

Radical Birth: France is battling a rising tide of radical Islam. Its prisons are breeding grounds for jihadists.
getty images
Radical Birth: France is battling a rising tide of radical Islam. Its prisons are breeding grounds for jihadists.

By Reuters

Published May 07, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 2 of 4)

In March an Islamist suspect was arrested on accusations of plotting an imminent bomb attack on French soil. He had spent five months in jail last year for drugs and theft offences.

“We’re faced with an external enemy in Mali, but also an enemy from within who is the product of radicalisation,” said Interior Minister Manuel Valls, who acknowledged that Merah’s killing spree had revealed a serious lapse in intelligence.

“They start as minor delinquents, move into selling drugs, sometimes do prison time and convert to radical Islam and hate towards the West,” he told local media in February.

“A GOOD SCHOOL”

Noisy, dirty and smelling of garbage, Villepinte is the most crowded jail in the Paris region, called the “jungle” by guards. France’s prisons watchdog, after a 2009 visit, described its inmates as “young, undisciplined and totally uncontrollable”.

Brawls occur weekly and staff, many of them trainees, live in fear of attack. In January an optometrist was knifed in the eye with a pair of scissors. Absenteeism is sky-high among guards, who say they are overwhelmed by the daily challenge of keeping order.

“Islamic radicalisation is a real curse in most of our prisons,” Villepinte guard Blaise Gangbazo told Reuters. “But in tough jails like ours it comes about even more easily. It’s a good school.”

France’s prison population has grown by a third in the past decade, partly due to policies under conservative governments of handing down heavy sentences on repeat petty offenders.

No official data exist but sociologist Farhad Khosrokhavar says about half the 67,674 prison population is Muslim, rising to 70 percent in some urban areas. This disproportionate ratio of young, disadvantaged Muslims is added to a toxic mix of overcrowding, overtaxed guards and a lack of mainstream Muslim chaplains to discourage radicalisation.

Vulnerable young men typically arrive in jail, isolated from family and friends at a time of personal crisis, and become susceptible to recruitment by radicals. One such case was Karim Mokhtari, who at 18 was jailed for over six years for a botched robbery in which a man was shot.

While in jail in the northern city of Amiens, he met a soft-spoken older inmate who consoled him, invited him to pray and encouraged him to read the Koran in Arabic. “When you arrive in prison you feel completely abandoned. You get there and you need to find some strength,” said Mokhtari.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • "Mark your calendars: It was on Sunday, July 20, that the momentum turned against Israel." J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis on Israel's ground operation in Gaza:
  • What do you think?
  • "To everyone who is reading this article and saying, “Yes, but… Hamas,” I would ask you to just stop with the “buts.” Take a single moment and allow yourself to feel this tremendous loss. Lay down your arms and grieve for the children of Gaza."
  • Professor Dan Markel, 41 years old, was found shot and killed in his Tallahassee home on Friday. Jay Michaelson can't explain the death, just grieve for it.
  • Employees complained that the food they received to end the daily fast during the holy month of Ramadan was not enough (no non-kosher food is allowed in the plant). The next day, they were dismissed.
  • Why are peace activists getting beat up in Tel Aviv? http://jd.fo/s4YsG
  • Backstreet's...not back.
  • Before there was 'Homeland,' there was 'Prisoners of War.' And before there was Claire Danes, there was Adi Ezroni. Share this with 'Homeland' fans!
  • BREAKING: Was an Israeli soldier just kidnapped in Gaza? Hamas' military wing says yes.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.