Deradicalisation Programme. The Case of France

Thesis (M.A.), 2018

46 Pages, Grade: 75


Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Introduction

Chapter 2: Methodology
2.1. Aim and Scope
2.2. Research Design and Data Analysis
2.2.1. Reasons for Applying Case Study
2.2.2. Limitations and Obstacles

Chapter 3: Literature Review
3.1 Deradicalisation and Disengagement
3.1.1. Terminology Misconception
3.1.2. Relations of the Two Concepts
3.2. Lack of Theoretical Framework
3.3. Effectiveness of Deradicalisation Programme
3.3.1. European Approach
3.4. Deradicalisation & Ideology
3.5. Measuring the Success
3.6. Critical review of Deradicalisation Approach
3.7. Summary

Chapter 4: Case Study
4.1. Context of Terrorism in France
4.1.1. France counter-radicalisation efforts
4.2. The French Deradicalisation Programme
4.2.1. The Failure of the Centre
4.3. Why the programme failed?
4.3.1. Lack of concrete strategy
4.3.2. Confused: Deradicalisation or Disengagement?
4.4. Structure of the Programme
4.4.1. Voluntary Aspect
4.4.2. Lack of Ideological Component
4.5. Conclusion of the Case Study

Chapter 5: Final Conclusion



The growth of radicalisation and violent extremism has dramatically changed the peace and security in the world during the last two decades. Various attempts have taken place to overcome radicalisation and its destructive consequences by Western states, however these attempts have not been that successful. This research has reviewed the literature on deradicalisation to critically analyse how the gap in the literature and ambiguities have played a crucial role in the failure of France’s deradicalisation programme. France with more than 15,000 estimated radicals and many terrorist attacks since 2015 is one of the frontiers of the war on terror in Europe.

The severity of attacks in France has forced the government to take some serious steps. In this regard, the Deradicalisation Centre located in Pontourny, began its mission in September 2016 to deradicalise French radicals, but shortly the centre got closed in July 2017. This study has investigated the nature of deradicalisation programme in France and the reasons behind its failure. Conceptual problems, wrong approach, insufficient strategy and lack of ideological component are some of the main reasons behind the failure of the programme. This paper aims to shed light on the current state of deradicalisation to analyse why deradicalisation programmes have failed and violent extremism is still a threat to civilians.


All praise and thanks to God, the Almighty, for His blessings and guidance at every stage of my life. I would like to express my sincere gratitude first and foremost to my parents and my sister whose unconditional love and support was encouraging throughout my study and life in general.

Secondly, l would like to thank my supervisor Dr. Tom Tyson whom offered me his support, encouragement and immense knowledge.

Chapter 1: Introduction

The rapid growth of international security crisis in some aspect is the result of terrorism. However, this can be the consequence of the expansion of radicalisations in form of Islamic extremism and fundamentalism which has not only been spreading throughout the Middle East but also across the Europe. Such insecurity begs the question on the most effective way to tackle terrorism and radicalisation. The ongoing growth of radicalisation in the West and the persistent terrorist attacks raise this debate that European governments are not heading towards an effective counter terrorism strategy. In addition, many of the current approaches have been mismanaged, non-effective and failed to eradicate radicalisation and have not succeeded to stop terrorism. However, deradicalisation initiatives have emerged as a new phenomenon in countering radicalisation, which has been implemented in major states of Europe during the last few years.

Studies on counter terrorism raise the significant point that except from limited countries, most states are still implementing non-effective strategies to tackle terrorism on their turf. Therefore, combating ‘high’ rank members of a recognised terrorist group is not adequate enough to defeat radicalisation and terrorism (Mann, 2016, p.21). Since the start of the Syrian conflict in 2011, many European Muslims have joined Islamic States (ISIL) in both Iraq and Syria, however, many of these fighters have returned or have the intention to come back. Subsequently, in order to counter them, the majority of European states have introduced different strategies and initiatives to eradicate such threat.

Therefore, they were pushed to develop programmes specifically dealing with counter radicalisation and intervention at primary stages, also deradicalisation and disengagement at later parts. Although, these programmes can be highly effective in terms of interrupting violent radicalisation process and obtaining knowledge about the radicals and their mindset; this field is totally under researched.

Moreover, states have extended their understanding of counter terrorism. The new understanding in the West is that radicalisation must be tackled and challenged by the whole society. It means, families, communities and religious Ieaders must be actively invoIved in employing the stages of counter radicalisation programmes.

However, one of the major challenges to counter terrorism is the fact that there is a contradiction in counter terrorism programme (Nacos,2017); as employing such approach requires community and families to report any radicaI actions to the authorities. Such demand can destroy the sociaI integration and might result in impeding the freedom and liberty of families and the society as a whole.

Additionally, the counter radicalisation has been appeared as a core poIicy of counter terrorism strategy in home soil for the last few decades. These efforts usually pursue to prevent radicalisation from occurring and also stopping people who are at the process of becoming radicalised. English (2010) argues that counter radicalisation efforts are linked to counter poIarisation approach which seeks to reduce separation and fragmentation amongst different group in the society and retain healthy pIuralism.

Koehler (2017) claims that before the notorious terrorist attack in September 11th, many scholars and academics were expressing their views on the lack of effective approaches on countering the phenomenon of terrorism. For several years, such scholars have been asking for the so called ‘soft’ policies, as oppose to the failed ‘hard’ approaches, to be considered as the essential and effective counter terrorism approach.

The soft approach intends to re-shape the preferences of radicalised individuals through culturaI and economic appeals. Moroever, Stern (2010, p.108) argues that the soft approach to counter terrorism forms its strategy on the process of reversing the radicalisation via aiding the individual to abandon his ideoIogy and behaviour and return to a moderate society. This happens by assisting the radical individuals with countering their original reasons for radicalisation and in return, divorcing them from their extreme ideology and principles and social contacts.

Additionally, scholars usually assert that understanding the ideology behind radicalisation is as essential as radicalisation itself, if not more. Furthermore, states have come to recognise that through ‘hard’ policy we cannot arrest or kiII our way out of chaIIenges imposed by terrorism. We can physicaIIy defeat groups such as ISIL or other violent radicaIs and terrorist groups, but this Ieaves their appeaI untouched or even strengthened.

Schuurman (2015) claims that radicalisation and extremism do not usuaIIy grow in a vacuum. He argues that radical perspectives and ideas spread and gain attention as they offer an aIternative narrative claiming identifying injustice and enemies.,

When a radical group is no Ionger appealing to attract younger generation; it Iosses its credibiIity and there will be an end to its functionality. Scholars such as El-Said (2015, p.6) believes that terrorist actions impede when the radical ideology cannot be passed on to the next generation and that is what he calls ‘unsuccessful generational shift’, which is based on the reflections from the history of violent radicalisation. In addition, along the process of radicalisation the individuals measure their surroundings via emotionaI, ideologicaI and pragmatic view point before getting to a stage that they commit fuIIy to the radicaI idea. Once they no longer find the radicaI narrative appealing offered by a radical group; then, they would abandon the radicaI idea.

However, for counter terrorism approach to bring about such ‘unsuccessful generational shift’, it is vital to undermine ideoIogy behind the movement and discredit the group. Counter radicaIisation approach seeks to negate the individual’s mind set via offering new narrative, educating and encouraging individuals to express their ideas and passion in a more sociaIIy accepted manner.

Nevertheless, Bjorgo (2016, p.120) asserts that ‘Iack of conceptuaI cIarity’ in the emerging discourse on deradicalisation approach is evident. He argues that the Iack of the ‘conceptuaI’ development in this area has Ied to the absence of structured theoreticaI framework. Studies on deradicalisation have been practically limited into few programmes which is in contrast to the significant number of the studies conducted on radicalisation. Therefore, it can be claimed that the ‘practicaI’ aspect of deradicaIisation have mostIy outpaced the theoreticaI background (Elshimi, 2017, p.46). Consequently, deradicaIisation programmes are built without much theoreticaI support behind them which has Ied to the failure of many of these initiatives.

This research explores some of the major aspects of ‘deradicaIisation’ approach and finds more about their flaws and weaknesses. Deradicalisation and disengagement programmes have been initiated in the most parts of Europe. Even though such approaches are perceived as important initiatives for the field of counter radicalisation, they possess limitations and weaknesses. This study hopes to identify some of the main problems with this approach.

The main chapters in this paper include: Methodological aspects of the study and how the research was conducted. It also highlights the literature surrounding ‘deradicalisation’ via exploring its major features. Finally, the current literature is going to be used as an analytical basis to evaluate the Case Study on French deradicalisation programme via exploring the reasons behind its failure, follows by recommendations and conclusion.

Chapter 2: Methodology

This study is a qualitative piece of research-based on deradicalisation sources. Considering the socio-cultural and historical background of ‘deradicalisation, this research is a documentary-oriented study of the topic.

In this regard, this paper also examines the reasons behind the failure of the French deradicalisation programme to achieve its goals. This study will also benefit from documents in the forms of book, article, newspaper to achieve the aims of the research.

This part of the study also considers the impediments and limitations faced by this research. The study is concerned with the manner in which the obstacles stopped the French deradicalisation programme before it fulfils the plans and achieve its aims.

Thus, materials used in this paper can be summarised in three different but closely related categories General or descriptive, Analytical and Causal data from different types of documents. The General data is the information in the forms of report of events such as fact and figures given in websites and newspapers. While, the analytical data is almost the interpretations from the different notions on the process of radicalisation development; how it formed and the way in which it has extended in Europe.

2.1. Aim and Scope

As it was pointed out in the introduction, radicalisation has been a growing phenomenon in Europe and has become a major threat to the society since September 11th, 2001. As a result of this, the European Union (EU) in particular, has strongly attempted in countering and eradicating radicalisation (in forms of both Islamism and right-wing ideology) at its foundation. Alongside other counter radicalisation approaches that have been implemented by the EU states, deradicalisation approach has been regarded as a pivotal strategy.

France with nearly five million Muslims is at the first line of the risk of terrorism among the European countries. It has been indicated by the French government that an estimate of 2,000 French citizens have joined terrorist groups such as ISIL which is the highest amongst the European countries. The existence of Islamic radicals in French soil has exacerbated the situation, as during the recent years few deadly terrorists’ attacks have been carried out in France. Moreover, French government believes that nearly 15,000 Islamic radicals reside in French soil.

In 2016, France revived its effort with a new strategy to tackle the issue of radicalisation. In their effort, France opened a state funded ‘deradicalisation centre’ which was closed down after less than a year. The growth of radicalisation in France and the number of attacks that occurred in France since 2015, led to death of 234 people and hundreds wounded (The Guardian, 2017). This makes French’s case a subject worth examining and taking into consideration.

2.2. Research Design and Data Analysis

Punch (2005) emphasises that quaIitative method is ‘muItimethod in focus ’ which entails naturaIist and interpretive approach to the subject under the consideration. As such, the unique purpose of this study which is to find out the flaws of deradicalisation programmes, will be better served through an analytical, narrative and more in-depth approach. Intellectually, this study aims to find out how a better understanding of deradicalisation phenomenon can be achieved and what efforts should be done to make deradicalisation programmes more effective.

2.2.1. Reasons for Applying Case Study

Case study method shines at offering an understanding of compound issues. It emphasises detaiIed contextuaI analysis of an event. Yin (1984, p.24) asserts that the case study is an ‘empiricaI inquiry’ that expIores a contemporary phenomenon within its ‘reaI Iife’ context when the phenomenon and the context do not share an evident boundary.

In general, a case study permits researcher to thoroughly observe data within a specific ‘context’. In most cases, a case study method seIects a smaII geographicaI area or a very Iimited number of individuaIs as the subjects of study.

Carrying out this research using a case study method aided the project to conduct a ‘Iogical’ and ‘comprehensive’ investigations.

2.2.2. Limitations and Obstacles

Having described the mythoIogicaI outIook used in this paper, it is also notable to indicate some Iimitations as the main impediments encountered by this study in the literature review section. The lack of diversity in the literature was of the main probIems. Although there are various resources availabIe for radicalisation, but regarding the issue of deradicalisation, not many books are availabIe, which couId be due to the fact that this topic is still establishing itself in the fieId. However, to overcome this Iimitation, the study focused on available books, journaI and scholarly articles and available reports.

Additionally, this study faced some Iimitations in terms of gathering data on the case study as well. Due to the nature of the topic and ethical codes no primary data was available. Thus, the study was conducted through the secondary research. Most information was acquired through newspaper articles and journal articles and limited published state reports. As deradicalisation is a developing phenomenon; not many resources are available on the issue.

Additionally, the scarcity of data and information regarding states’ deradicalisation programmes across the Europe is evident. The majority of the programmes are sponsored by the local governments. Subsequently, the governments usually obtain a significant level of confidentiality and do not publish all the facts. So, the paper could have benefited from more extensive governmental reports and study on the current state of deradicalisation programmes.

Nevertheless, this is an obstacle that everyone who works on this topic would face, and the effective way to overcome it, is to focus on the published data and to compare them with published articles and reports from non-governmental institutions. Fortunately, the effect of the aforementioned barriers on this study was minimal.

Chapter 3: Literature Review

Due to the rapid growth of IsIamic radicalisation in the West, most research findings on radicalisation and deradicalisation have been concentrated on various forms of IsIamist terrorism over the Iast decade. Thus, the terms radicalisation and deradicalisation used in this study are predominately referring to IsIamic radicalisation and its components.

The literature on deradicalisation has been suffering from Iack of cIarity and consensus regarding on conceptual definitions. In this regard, deradicalisation can be defined in a reversed form as a technique and method to ‘undermine’ and ‘undo’ the completed radicalisation process. However, misperception has appeared in both the literature and strategies. The term deradicalisation has been used interchangeably with other concepts such as counter-radicalisation, which means to control and stop radicalisation from occurring. In addition, the term anti-radicalisation has been defined as an approach to prevent radicalisation from occurring in the first place.

3.1 Deradicalisation and Disengagement

It can be argued that two of the most important concepts within this field are ‘deradicalisation’ and ‘disengagement’. However, it is important to distinguish between these two concepts which have been inaccurately perceived to convey the same connotation. Even though they are not equally exclusive, but a clear distinction should be established to comprehend both notions fully (Bjorgo & Horgan, 2009, p. 3).

Horgan (2014, p.154) defines deradicalisation as a process in which both psychoIogicaI and social background of the committed individual is included in the procedure for reducing the risk of getting engaged in a violent activity. Horgan calls this approach a ‘Cognitive Shift’ which aims to change the mindset of the radical.

Demant et al (2008, p.14) pays little attention to belief and the ideology and perceives deradicalisation ‘less’ in terms of prevention and ‘more’ of mind ‘de-programming’ of those already been radicalised. He asserts that deradicalisation is a unique process of becoming less radical and should be applied to both beliefs and behaviours. However, Demant does not explore how such processes reduce radicalisation.

As beliefs are the main base of radicalisation, Demant argues that a confidence in the system should be projected to the radical’s mind and the support should be given. Consequently, the radical becomes more part of the society and finally rejects non-democratic (radicaI) views. Demant has focused on belief and behaviour as the main foundations of racialisation. With this regard, Demant concludes that the annihilation of violent actions is directly linked to the modification of radical’s mind. Although, changing the ideological mind set of a radicaI is not as easy as it has been claimed.

Criticising Demant’s reverse method, Moghadam (2005, p.164) claims that as people employ variety of paths which leads to radicalisation; Demant’s method of deradicalisation is not effective in changing the radical’s mind. In order to find out the way in which deradicalisation takes place, it is essential to analyse the relevant approaches. Moghadam claims that such collection of approaches is presently absent in the implemented initiatives.

While scholars define deradicalisation as a process of mind change, disengagement can be defined as simply a ‘ correctional’ behavioural method mainly utilised in a prison system. In other word, disengagement is, indeed, an attempt to change the behaviour of a radicaI which is formed through physical connection with a radical group. Thus, contrary to deradicalisation which works on the mind, disengagement implies a mechanism of behavioural adjustment. (Knight, 2004, p.507)

Notably, Horgan (2008, p.4) argues that disengagement from an extremist group does not effectively suggest that the person is leaving the group’s ideology. Instead, it can be said that the individual only ‘disengages’ from terrorist activities, not necessarily changing his mind; he calls this a ‘ role change’. Horgan adds that a physicaI disengagement from a violent group can occur without ideologicaI deradicalisation. This means that the likelihood of a radicalised individual leaving a group or renouncing the chosen ideology is inverseIy connected to the level of commitment that the person has made to the group.

3.1.1. Terminology Misconception

Perceiving deradicalisation as disengagement within the scholarly framework as the dominant approach, gives this idea that it can only be applied to individuals who have already been through the radicalisation process. Looking at the contemporary state of ‘deradicalisation’ approaches we realise that most of their emphasis on counter radicalisation is based on the interchangeable use of deradicalisation and disengagement.

Koehler (2017, p. 68) argues that the word deradicalisation itself is too expansive and its true definition has not been entirely ‘understood’, yet. He adds that the term deradicalisation, based on its scope, possess few limitations. For instance, it usually tries to convey this notion that in order to go through a successful deradicalisation process, we should simply modify the beliefs and therefore the behaviour will be changed. This Iinear approach as Koehler claims does not permit for easy and in-depth engagement with the problem.

Terminological ambiguity has resulted in most practitioners perceiving disengagement as a behavioural shift. However, such misunderstanding is accepted by policy makers as it is less time consuming, easily measurabIe, and Iess ambiguous. Noricks (2009, p.302) justifies policy makers’ perception by arguing that disengagement is more realistic in its goals than deradicalisation as a cognitive shift.

However, Rabasa et al (2010, p.19) and Koehler (2017) criticise this approach by pointing out that the disengaged individual can still return to the violent movement if he realises that his ideology and his community is seriously under attack. Koehler emphasises that distinguishing deradicalisation from disengagement has a huge impact on implementation of approaches and policies. He adds that many of the programmes characterised as a deradicalisation programme, are in reality employing disengagement approach.

Jacobson (2010, p.26) points out that another way to perceive the notion of deradicalisation and disengagement is through the ‘ rationaI choice theory ’, which distinguishes between strategies, motives, and structure. Based on Jacobson’s understanding, deradicalisation incorporates a change in one’s fundamental objectives and goals. While, disengaging contains an instrumental change in individual’s behaviour due to shifting constraints, which usually occurs via costs suffered, or benefits attained. He asserts that a successful deradicalisation programme should mostly focus on individual’s views and cognitive shifts and not simply a change in behaviour.

3.1.2. Relations of the Two Concepts

Emmerling (2017, p.69), asserts that a concrete approach to counter radicalisation should entail both elements of deradicalisation and disengagement at the same time. Silverman (2014, p.43) believes that disengagement should be the primary goal while deradicalisation must occur after the success of disengagement process. However, Ashour (2011, pp.33-34) argues that applying disengagement would not guarantee a successful deradicalisation. Since there are countless reasons behind radicalisation, similarly there are countless reasons for a radical to exit an organisation or a cult. Criticising the deradicalisation programme carried out by states, Horgan (2009, p.22) asserts by suggesting to his interviews with former terrorists that even though every single one of the interviewees were disengaged, not even one of them could be recognised as ‘deradicalised’.

Furthermore, Marsden (2015, p.152) argues that disengagement and deradicalisation should not be perceived independently as they both complete each other and are part of the same model. As an example, she refers to the Islamic radicalisation arguing that merely disengagement approach would not be beneficial. This is because engaging through ideological debate with a radical can be a vital opportunity to force mainstream Islam to confront extremist interpretations of the religion.

However, disengagement usually occurs ‘collectively’. the aim of disengagement is to separate the violent radical from their radical groups by sending them to prison. On the other hand, since deradicalisation entails a cognitive shift, it usually occurs on an individual basis where the programme can concentrate on ideological components. (Jackson, 2011).

Bjorgo (2008, p.18) argues that disengagement at its best can only have a physical effect on the radical, while a whole and sophisticated approach including both deradicalisation and disengagement would have a greater effect on the radical. Consequently, this can demolish any mental and physical connections between the radical and its ideology. Moreover, Schimd (2013, p. 29) argues that both deradicalisation and disengagement can only happen at group level, where radicals are not yet completely devoted to the cause. Therefore, their mindset and worldview can be challenged easier than those who have devoted their lives for a specific belief. Referring to the empirical example of IRA in 1980s, Schimd argues how a number of the low-level members were disengaged and deracialised which consequently led to the Good Friday Agreement.

3.2. Lack of Theoretical Framework

In contrast to radicalisation, where a variety of models and theories are available, the gap of theoretical framework does exist in deradicalisation field. Experts on deradicalisation have pointed out that there is a lack of conceptual and theoretical foundation for deradicalisation (Horgan & Altier, 2012). Despite the availability of a few models for prison disengagement; lack of concrete models and theories are evident in deradicalisation approach. Kohler (2017) asserts that lack of developed theoretical framework has led some policy makers to mostly use radicalisation methods and framework in a ‘reverse method’, which he believes in reality it does not bring any success. While other policy makers usually tend to implement their programmes based on ‘experimental’ or trial and error approaches.

Horgan claims that one of the reasons for lack of developed theory in this field is the fact that most of the programmes are prison based. Within the prison system the ‘radical’ is perceived as a ‘criminal’ and the main aim is to ‘disengage’ him from violent activities.

3.3. Effectiveness of Deradicalisation Programme

European approaches to deradicalisation and disengagement contrast with their counterpart in the Islamic countries. In the majority of Islamic countries deradicalisation programmes are prison based (Stern, 2010). Muslim states identify a radical who is perceived and captured as a ‘misled’ individual. Since the radical is in captivity, authorities can stimulus his mindset both conditionally and intentionally through offering benefits in return to moderation. In fact, this is the only option for the detainee to be released. (Begeer, 2015)

Criticising the prison-based approach, Koehler (2017, p. 162) refers to the examples of Saudi and Yemen arguing that the majority of the detainees re-join terrorist groups upon their release. This highlights the fact that current prison-based deradicalisation approach only disengages people from the group temporarily, while, the radical mindset is still functioning.

3.3.1. European Approach

It is significant to point that Europe’s approach to deradicalisation is vastly diverse. For instance, Denmark, Netherlands and the UK have applied ‘voluntary’ and locally based programmes to identify and reform individuals who are in the much early phases of radicalisation. Subsequently, national governments and the EU always set guidelines for these programmes to increase effectiveness. Thus, local governments ‘tailormade’ the initiatives based on their community requirements and needs (Ashour, 2011, p.43). This, in fact, can pave the way for those volunteers who are interested to participate in deradicalisation programmes.

Rabasa et al (2011, p.40) asserts that the main targets for European programmes are those who are not yet breached the law and are only sympathisers and external members of radical groups. This is in contrast to what deradicalisation programmes are trying to achieve in Islamic countries and also in the US whereby programmes are applied on those who have breached the law and became violent radicals. However, Koehler (2017, p.205) points out that the ideological element as in theological approach is and must be at the heart of deradicalisation method to counter radicalisation.

Another approach that many European countries such as France have used before is the prison-based programmes which mostly pursues disengagement. This type of programme is mostly focused on reducing the number of active terrorists in the society via aiding radicals to abandon terrorism and ‘re-integrate’ into mainstream society. It also offers the practitioners of this approach to implement their initiative in a closed and controlled environment.

However, Jones (2014, p.77) argues that the prison-based programmes have their limits as well. Firstly, the radicals are forced to participate and also there is no measurement whether the person has been withdrawn from his radical beliefs or not. Also, most of prison-based initiative only work on disengagement, meaning their main goal is to offer a path to the radical to abandon violent activities. However, upon their release there is a high chance that inmates foster their radical ideology and return to the same belief and mindset. (Hannah,2008)

3.4. Deradicalisation & Ideology

Koehler (2017, p.181) argues that ‘ideology’ as a ‘term’ and ‘concept’ can be perceived as the most fundamental, critical and debateable feature of deradicalisation programmes. He adds that each deradicalisation programme should reflect how far they tend to go regarding ideological deradicalisation and why it intends to draw the line at certain points. Arguably, avoiding engagement with ideological issues is the main reason that many European countries such as the UK and France prefer disengagement programme and preventative initiatives.

Sageman (2009) states that in order to challenge the mind-set of a radical person a programme must have a ‘converser’ who is perceived trustworthy in the eyes of the radical. Upon the conclusion of the programme, the graduate must be carefully supervised and offered continuous provision to drop the likelihood of recidivism.

Given the importance of ‘ideology’ in the process of radicalisation, we rarely see any reference to ideology within the field of deradicalisation and implemented programmes. The importance of ideology has been debated and perceived differently in Europe’s politics. European deradicalisation is mainly about voluntary programme for people who are ‘at risk’ of being radicalised. Nevertheless, the idea of being under public inspection has impacted the effectiveness of these programmes. Because, there are many instances that extremists and their devotees have publicised every action undertaken by these programmes as a proof of discrimination and war against Islam. (Kebbell, 2012, p.223)

The majority of Muslim states incorporate a substantial theological component in their programme. However, European states find it rather challenging or even impossible to indorse a specific interpretation of Islam as part of their deradicalisation approach. This is due to the fact that there are many interpretations available and also lack of sufficient resources is evident. (Braddock, 2010, p.272). Europeans ought to perceive the issue of radicalisation within the broader context of social integration of Muslim communities. Based on the European approach, the main aim of the deradicalisation is to re-integrate the radical individual into the society. Thus, the problem is perceived as a social issue which includes various factors. (Angell, 2012).

3.5. Measuring the Success

Most of deradicalisation initiatives across the Europe claim success to some extent. Nevertheless, there is no empirical evidence to show what constitutes to their success and how they achieve any it. (Braddock, 2010, p.267). Rabasa et al (2010, p.40) points out that the majority of states running deradicalisation programmes have kept any information regarding their initiatives in total secret which makes it challenging to judge their success.

Koehler (2017) asserts that due to lack of resources the majority of these programmes keep the ‘deradicalised’ person under surveillance for a maximum of one year. Therefore, how can one be certain that the person has not fallen off the track again? Another critical point about these programmes is the fact that their only method of measuring successes is the rate of ‘recidivism’ which cannot be accurate enough. Measuring success via recidivism approach only considers those who have been disengaged from their violent activities, and do not emphasise on deradicalisation of the mindset. (Khosrokhavar, 2017, p.129)

All in all, claims of success differ, but the overall assessment is that current deradicalisation programmes generally only ‘work’ on ‘soft core’ militant jihadists, while usually having little impact with hardcore members. Crucially, no thorough evaluation for any of these programmes are available in the literature yet and claims about their effectiveness needs to be treated with caution.

3.6. Critical review of Deradicalisation Approach

Deradicalisation programmes have been heavily scrutinised and criticised. Stone (2015, p.222-224) argues that deradicalisation programmes are subject to heavy criticism due to lack of transparency and availability of scientific evaluations, inefficiencies, and unproven success. It is partly, because the majority of European states which have applied deradicalisation initiatives rarely publish their figures and reports on effectiveness of their programmes.

Arguably, the majority of the so called deradicalisation programmes largely focus on ‘pre-criminaI’ and ‘non-criminaI’ space. El-Said (2015, p.251) claims that most of the ‘state run’ deradicalisation initiatives are in nature ‘illegitimate’ efforts; as they are carried out to emasculate basic freedoms in favour of government authorised politics and religious views. Consequently, these efforts have been perceived as ‘immature’ attempts to create ethical or cultural reIativism by erasing any differences between values and perspectives (Lilienfeld et al, 2009, p.392).

A recent study by ‘The Behavioural Insights Team’ (2018) have found that the majority of deradicalisation programmes across the Europe, in particular in France and the UK, have been unsuccessful. One of the reasons is that the most participants claimed that they were ‘restricted’ from their freedom of thoughts and speech. To avoid such criticism many Western initiated programmes have been very cautious not to include an ideological component in their work. Another reason behind abandoning ideology in deradicalisation process is the fact that it can be a long-term, extensive process which requires comprehensive resources (Koehler, 2017, p.119).

There is not much information available about deradicalisation process in vastly different programmes around the Europe. We know that individuals leave violent radical groups every day around the world and that many of these groups cease to exist after a relatively short period of activity (Dalhoum,2016, p.10). Consequently, there must be some ways to structurally foster and support that process. In addition, deradicalisation programmes are being created and run globally without much theoretical backing behind them. This results in a very urgent necessity to build a basic knowledge and toolkit for deradicalisation practitioners and researchers.

3.7. Summary

Due to lack of sufficient analytical debates and reports on the outcomes of deradicalisation programmes, there is a significant gap in deradicalisation literature, because all deradicalisation programmes are new and not yet available to be analysed. For instance, the failure of the France programme on voluntary deradicalisation was just announced in July 2017 and the French government has not released any comprehensive reports regarding the programme.

In general, the field of counter terrorism and counter radicalisation are still facing various challenges due to ambiguities in definition of deradicalisation which almost is confused with disengagement. On the other hand, we cannot still see the true commitments by governments and politicians to apply the given approaches in counter radicalisation programmes. In the next section, the flaws and weaknesses of such programmes will be explored via examining the currently closed state funded deradicalisation programme in France.

The Lack of clear definition and perception of deradicalisation is one of the major problems which results in different consequences. Overall, despite the social outlook of Braddock (2010, p.269), action based and critical outlook of Moghadam (2009, p.283), process based notion of Demant et al (2008, p.14) and Horgan (2010, p.154), as well as Schmid’s (2013, p. 29) outlook of the radical’s mind set through group connection in prison combining deradicalisation and disengagement outlooks, or Jacobson’s (2010, p.26) structural based approach with the aim of behavioural change of radical; However, deradicalisation theory suffers from weakness in conceptual definition. Such weakness has affected deradicalisation programmes as this study explores in detail later. The main weakness of these mentioned outlooks is their neglect in considering the belief and ideology as a vital component of deradicalisation programmes process.

Therefore, the information presented in this section indicates that measuring the success rate of the implemented deradicalisation programmes by the states in Europe is in doubt. Also, it is rather difficult to find concrete consensus on the effectiveness of deradicalisation programmes due to diverse conceptual context. In the next part, the approaches that were analysed here would be used as a basis for analysing the French deradicalisation centre as an example of deradicalisation programme in Europe which was a failure.

Chapter 4: Case Study

Chapter four examines the state-run deradicalisation programme in France as the example of an unsuccessful deradicalisation programme in Europe. The programme which was launched in September 2016 and closed in July 2017 is the case study of this dissertation. The chapter sets the empirical scene by looking at the state of terrorism in the France, followed by counter radicalisation efforts that have been carried out in recent years.

However, the significant part of chapter focuses on ‘deradicalisation programme in France’ by explaining the structure of the programme and factors contributing to its failure. Each of the main reasons behind the failure of the programme will be discussed in length. Moreover, the approaches and concepts which were introduced in the literature review will be employed for analysing the French initiative. It is hoped that the analysis offered in this case study can contribute to the existing literature and aid us to identify major gaps in the literature.

4.1. Context of Terrorism in France

Radicalisation and violent extremism have had destructive effects on the French society. France has been the home to the biggest Muslim community in Europe and at the frontline of Jihadi threats. The history of terrorist attacks on French soil goes back to the 19th century when various terrorist groups carried out attacks. These groups included extreme rights and left, nationalists from Basque region and also Islamist extremists in the form of Algerian insurgency. (Millington, 2015) However, the effect of attacks in 19th and 20th century is not comparable with what France has been witnessing since the beginning of the 21st century and especially since 2015.

Terrorists who operated on behalf of Yemeni’s Al-Qaeda affiliation raided the office of French magazine ‘Charlie Hebdo’ killing 12 people on 7th of January 2015. In the next few days, the associate of those terrorists killed 5 more people in the name of ISIL in Paris (BBC news, 2015).

The attack on Charlie Hebdo office was the most fatal attack on the French soil since World War II. Terrorist attacks continued with the November 13th of the same year in which 8 members of ISIL targeted various places throughout Paris resulting in the death of 130 and injury of 350 people. Since then, ISIL has continued its efforts to inspire and radicalise French residents to engage in violent activities resulting in further catastrophic attacks. Furthermore, on 14th July 2016, a Tunisian born French citizen drove his truck into a crowd which killed 86 and injured about 430 people. These deadly attacks were continued by two other attacks initiated by ISIL-claimed attackers on June 13th and July 26th of 2016, which resulted in the death of two police forces and an elderly priest. (Burke, 2016)

The predicament and catastrophic effects of these attacks raised many criticisms on the effectiveness of France counter-terrorism policies. It has been estimated that there are around 15,000 terrorism suspects in France and the government has clearly struggled to monitor and deal with them (Straitstimes,2018). Moreover, French Jihadists have been contributing massively to the war in Syria and Iraq. The estimate is that there were almost 2,000 French national fighters in Syria and Iraq as of May 2016 which makes France as the biggest contributor of Western fighters to ISIL (McKernan, 2017).

Based on the French government’s 2018 report the majority of the fighters who have survived the battlefield have tried to re-enter the French soil. This has increasingly alarmed the French authorities about them. Besides, there are around 1,400 inmates in French prisons that are believed to have been radicalised. Additionally, the government claims there are an estimate of 8,250 hardcore Islamist jihadist across France and that number is growing every year. All these concerns have made the issue of radicalisation a huge concern for France (, 2018).

4.1.1. France Counter-radicalisation Efforts

Terrorist attacks have obliged France to confront the threat of radicalisation and violent extremism in a systematic manner. In 2015, the French government launched its ‘ Stop Jihadism ’ campaign, which incorporated online materials to help citizens to spot and identify terrorist suspects and prepare citizens on how to react when an attack occurs. However, since the 2015 attacks, the French government amended features of its patriot act and stepped up its IegisIative efforts in its endeavour to fight radicalisation. (, 2018).

The government identified six jihadists who were on the brink of joining the ISIL, suspended and their passports and arrested them. In March 2015, six websites which were promoting jihadi propaganda were shut down. Subsequently, new legislations were passed to allow security forces to carry out raids and arrests without any official warrant. Moreover, the French court approved for a broader surveillance and revoked citizenship from convicted French terrorists. (POLITICO,2018)

The French Prime Minster of the time, Manuel VaIIas, unveiled new anti-terrorism pIan in May 2016. The strategy incIuded new 50 measures as part of a ‘gIobaI strategy’ to counter radicalisation. Based on VaIIas’s pIan the French government was to establish rehabilitation centres for victims of radicalisation across France. Additionally, the French government pIedged to spend around €40 million in pursuit of eradicating radicalisation via deradicalising the Muslim youths in 2016. (LaStampa, 2017)

Subsequently, the first ‘state’ run deradicalisation centre was opened in central France, in Loire Valley, known as The Pontourny Centre in September 2016. The government’s plan was to open another twelve similar centres across the country. The Pontourny centre was part of a comprehensive strategy to battle radicalisation in July 2016. However, the centre, was closed down 10 months after starting its work in July 2017. (POLITICO, 2018)

4.2. The French Deradicalisation Programme

‘The Centre for Prevention, Integration and Citizenship’ was designed as a state funded voIuntary deradicalisation programme which could provide a transitionaI space ‘between the open environment and a prison’. The centre initially was planned to be the ‘centrepiece’ of a nationwide effort to tackle Islamic radicalisation. Officials hoped that the centre would be a starting point to reduce the growing number of jihadists and radicals in the country. (The Guardian, 2017).

The centre was open to young people between age of 18 to 30 years. The purpose of the centre was to select candidates on a ‘voIuntary’ basis from people who have been radicalised but were seeking a way out. The site was intended to cater for radical individuals who would undergo a ‘fast-sharp-shock’ treatment which included various activities. However, in order to participate in this initiative, the candidates should not have served in a prison before or being on the government’s terrorism watch list. The candidates therefore, would be identified by authorities and then they could apply and upon approval they could join. (Sputniknews,2017)

The main idea behind the centre was to do ‘experimental’ method via ‘collective’ approach on radicalised people who had been identified by local authorities. The flagged radicalised had been supposedly exhibiting withdrawn behaviour and thus was asked to ‘voluntarily’ enter the programme. The centre was an attempt to ‘develop critical minds and appropriate citizenship and republican vaIues.’ (France24,2017).

The government believed that around 3,600 radicalised individuals would join these proposed deradicalisation centres over the next two years. The centre was not designed for ‘ convicted terrorists ’ who were flagged by the government and the participants had to agree to join by being persuaded by family and friends to join to remove themselves from jihadi mentality. (,2017)

4.2.1. The Failure of the Centre

A few months after the programme started, local protesters gathered outside the centre, carrying signs that read “city of Pontourny is in danger” and “Jihadist Danger.” They demanded the government to shut down the centre, being concerned that it would bring terrorism straight to their town. The mayor of the Pontourny, Jean-Luc Dupont, was one of protesters who believed the presence of such centre would make IocaIs anxious and apprehensive about the negative reputation that such centre could create for the city. (LaStampa, 2017)

However, the centre was already a complete failure. It was empty and had no participants since February 2017. Eventually it was closed down in July 2017 as a Senate report strongly criticised the programme and called for the centre to be closed. The programme was planned to serve 25 people at its annual admission. However, only 59 people have queried about attending the Pontourny Centre since it was opened. Out of those number, only 17 people did apply, just 9 people arrived at the centre, and none of them completed the ten-month programme. (Sputniknews,2017)

Moreover, one of those 9 participants were a 24 years old male who was arrested during a counter terrorism operation in January 2017 as he was trying to leave the country to join ISIL. He was believed to have a link with the perpetrator of jihadist attack on the Bataclan Theatre in Paris. Despite having allocated €2.5 million annual budget and around 27 staff including psychologists, and teachers, the centre could not perform and was closed shortly. (POLITICO, 2018)

4.3. Why the Programme Failed?

This section examines some of the factors contributing to failure of the programme. It can be argued that there are always various reasons and predicaments behind the failure of an initiative and there is not always a simple answer available. However, in this section discusses some of the main reasons behind the failure of the centre.

4.3.1. Lack of Concrete Strategy

Since the outset of terrorist attacks on French soil and the rise of radicalisation, the French government was left with no choice than implementing a counter radicalisation strategy which works with the radicals already inside France. It is estimated that there are more than 15,000 French citizens who are either radicalised or in the process of radicalisation. In 2016 some 400 people were arrested on suspicion of links to jihadist groups, and now 2,400 people and 1000 families are being actively monitored. (, 2018)

Moreover, the centre as was established as part of an action plan to add new measures to counter radicalisation efforts in July 2016. The government had dedicated around 2.5 million euros to Pontourny centre for two years. However, while radicalisation is expanding rapidly across France; looking back at the Pontourny centre we realise it was a rushed and expensive strategy (Telegraph, 2018). The government tried to make ‘strong’ decisions which was not completely thought through. As the charter of the programme said this was an ‘experimental’ project, which illustrates that there were no concrete ideas and strategies behind it.

One of the main arguments against this strategy is the presence of ‘collective’ approach. The idea of the centre was to gather youths who are either radicalised or are in the process of radicalisation. Shaffer (2015) argues that, the idea behind collective deradicalisation approach is rather ineffective and dangerous. The youths who were supposed to participate on the programme were from different age groups and genders, but the programme was offering one collective approach for everyone.

Moreover, young semi radicalised individuals in the centre could interact on a daily basis and exchange thoughts and ideas with those who were further down the line of radicalisation. Consequently, re-grouping these people who are at different stages of radicalisation can have a reverse impact as one charismatic individuaI who has more knowledge than the others would suffice to turn the centre into a ‘ Jihad Academy’. Melina Uhlmann, a former advisor to the French government on counter radicalisation, who was against such centres believes that the method of collective deradicalisation is ineffective and dangerous and usually creates a platform for more radicalisation in such centres. (LaStampa, 2017)

Additionally, the process of radicalisation is subjective and individualised. (Turkington and Christien, 2018) Each of the radicals could go through a unique endeavour and ultimately choose an ideology to form his/her world view. similar to radicalisation, the process of deradicalisation should be also individualised.

The programme included topics such as psychology, languages, education etc. However, since the goal behind deradicalisation programme is to ‘rehabilitate’ its participants, every component should be based on an individual approach. since every person has his own path towards radicalisation thus these topics should be discussed individually not in a group. (Shaffer,2015, p.22) This issue has been discussed thoroughly in the academic field. Many scholars argue that the problem with collective approaches is that they try forcefully to impose one approach to all. However, one approach does not fit all. the collective approach is missing this important point that these radicals are not related mentally. (Koehler, 2017)

While radicals might possess same or similar ideology, but they hold more strongly onto some elements of the ideology that is relevant to their livelihood and backgrounds. (Warraq, 2017, p.13). However, directing this people on a collective approach means observing the issue from one rigid angle and perspective.

Kohler (2017) has argued that radicalised people require to have one by one approach and mentorship as they need to trust the people they are working with. If we look at the most successful deradicalisation strategies in Europe we see states such as Denmark have adopted ‘individualised’ programmes.

‘Collective deradicalisation’ is very usual in places such as Saudi and other Middle Eastern countries where individuals are assimilated from an authoritarian society and hence another rigid programme is easy to be enforced (Porges, 2010). However, this type of approach is not functionable in places like France where they emphasise on freedom of thoughts and speech and consider the highest values for individual liberty. This approach has been always doomed to the failure when transferred to democratic and liberal countries.

El Difraoui, an expert who worked with the French government on the issue of radicalisation and deradicalisation asserts that a collective approach usually implies that the programme implementer has rushed the process and does not have a comprehensive understanding of radicalisation and deradicalisation. He adds that one of the main problems with this field is the fact that policy makers do not even have consensus on how to define radicalisation and what facilitates it. Therefore, when it comes to implementing deradicalisation programme they tend to miss the point and implement the easiest strategy which is to tackle the issue collectively. (TheTimes,2018).

4.3.2. Confused: Deradicalisation or Disengagement?

By looking at the prospect of the Pontourny Centre, we understand that ambiguity between the goals and the approach was present from day one. Initially, the programme was intended to accomplish deradicalisation. However, in reality the whole structure of the programme was based on prison disengagement/deradicalisation method which France itself has implemented it before (Kepel, 2017). As it was discussed in the literature review, many of the policy makers tend to implement disengagement purposefully. This is due to the fact that it is rather less time consuming and fewer financial resources is required.

Deradicalisation has been developed as a newly concept within counter-radicalisation, but it is vital to differentiate it from disengagement. It can be argued, that these two notions are not only different, but moreover, just because a person has been physically disengaged from a violent group does not imply he has been deradicalised. Thus, the distinction between to terms is vital in our understanding of the issue. (Horgan,2008).

Deradicalisation is a process which entails a ‘cognitive shift’. Meaning it mostly focuses on the psychological and ideological characters of a radical person. The aim behind deradicalisation is to ultimately modify the perception of an individual by offering him a new world view. Disengagement on the other hands, pursues a different goal (Rabasa et al , 2010, p.18). The idea behind disengagement is to bring about a ‘behavioural shift’. Meaning it concentrates on changing the attitude and behavioural pattern of an individual. Disengagement usually gets utilised when a person has committed a violent act. (Johnston, 2009)

Generally, a modern deradicalisation programme assumes that the starting point is that the radical still possess the terrorist worldview and mindset, thus remains committed to the cause. However, a disengagement programmes seeks to motivate the radical to physically leave the group and shift his behaviour. Disengagement initiatives were initially implemented in prison system to keep away violent radicals from extreme groups with the hope of them leaving the group. As it was discussed in the literature review disengagement process usually occurs by offering some benefits to the radical and keeping him in jail would disengage him from violent acts over the time. (Dechesne, 2014, p.178).

Critically speaking, disengagement has some flaws. It can only be implemented once the radical has engaged physically in violent action. Also, it can rarely be successful out of the prison system. Thus, it is only applied on ‘terrorists’ who committed an act of terrorism. Moreover, disengagement programmes avoid the ideological component despite its vital importance in radicalisation. Horgan (2008, p.26) argues that disengagement from an extremist group does not essentially suggest that the person is divorcing the ideology. Rather the individual only ‘disengages’ from terrorist activities without necessarily changing the mindset. Horgan calls this a ‘role change’ and adds that a physical disengagement from a violent group can occur without ideological deradicalisation. This means that the probability of a radicalised individual leaving a group or renouncing the chosen ideology is inversely related to the level of commitment that the person has made to the group. (Koomen, 2015).

Regarding the French centre, even though the goal was employing deradicalisation; however, the actual practice was a disengagement programme in disguise. This ambiguity of the terms is the main problem with the field of deradicalisation. (Noricks,2009, p.318). Arguably, one of the reasons that the French centre avoided implementing deradicalisation approach, is the difficulty of creating a cognitive shift.

The Pontourny centre practiced a prison-based programme, with similar rules and regulation. Participants had to wear the same uniforms, had to wake up at 6:45 am every day, had to undertake various activities on a mandatorily basis and attend compulsory classes. One of the participants of the programme who only lasted there for 4 months reported that one of the reasons for leaving the centre was that she and the other 8 participants were treated like criminals. Apparently, the participants were forced to attend all the classes and they were also under heavy surveillance regime. This again implies the fact that it the implemented approach was disengagement. (LaStampa,2017).

Moreover, the centre required the participants to stay there for a period of 10 months. That itself illustrates that the programme intended to disengage these participants from the society with the hope of ending their radicalisation process. But in contrast, El-Said (2015) argues since the radicalisation is a long process, therefore the reversing or eradicating it even requires more time as every component which made the person radicalised should be first examined thoroughly and then challenged. Notably, this ultimately did not work and had a negative impact as 4 out of 8 participants of the programme left during the first few weeks and eventually the other 4 left without completing the programme

Also, having to remove a radical individual from a radicalisation process has some emotional and practical cost. By removing the participants from their environment and families, the initiative clearly failed to utilise the emotional push factor to engage with the radicals. In fact the young radicals need to be ‘re-socialise’ by being offered a new path and world view (Hellmuth,2015, p.38).

While the programme avoided the ideological principles, which had formed the mindset of the individuals; it tried to replace it with imposing ‘secular’ and ‘republican’ values and beliefs. The notion of imposing new values and beliefs on participants is similar to what Saudi has been doing in its disengagement initiatives wherein they impose state approved interpretation of Islam. (Porges, 2010, p.23-24).

4.4. Structure of the Programme

The residents were supposed to receive teachings in philosophy, media, religion, French history and literature as well as group conversations on democracy and religion. The supposed goal was to re-shape their intellectual system and divorce them from jihadi mindset. Other activities were imposed on participants such as therapy, music and art classes.

The centre aimed not to bring religious courses directly to the discussion as it believed to be a sensitive subject. However, a Muslim chaplain was available to converse with each resident in a group. Nonetheless, he was regarded as ‘unfaithful’ to Islam as he was working with the secular French government. Residents claimed that the Muslim chaplain represented ‘rouge’ Islam and could not be trusted. (POLITICO, 2018)

Nonetheless, the chaplain, offered two workshops on Arabic language and Muslim civilisation. It can be argued the notion of fighting radicalisation in youth by offering them lectures on French values and languages regarded ineffective.

4.4.1. Voluntary Aspect

When France introduced the programme in 2016, there was a strong emphasis on its voluntary nature; meaning there is no force upon people to attend or to participate in various activities and so on. This was not the case in practice. The participants were requested to wear uniforms and take part in structured and mandatory military drills. They were required to sing French national anthem on a daily basis. Participants also had daily meetings with special educators, psychologists, lmams, and psychiatrists with the aim of undergoing a cognitive shift. (Crowell,2017).

Arguably, a state run ‘voluntarily’ programme is wrong in its nature. Ferguson (2010, p.106) argues that the notion of voluntary programme is very controversial. He claims that this type of programmes has rarely been successful. Such programme requires people to ‘admit’ that they are radicalised and therefore attend a voluntary programme is absurd in its nature; as the radicalised usually tend to perceive themselves as ‘normal’; asking them to attend such programmes would not work. This was one of the reasons behind the lack of participant for such programme. Also, such approach can be provocative as it implies that a supposed radical should perceive himself as a danger to the society and has mental issues.

Amelie Boukhobza an expert on the field asserts that notion of asking people to join state funded programmes on a voluntarily basis is not workable. She adds that Muslim community see themselves marginalised by the government and they do not perceive the government as an ‘ally’. She believes one of the reasons that people would join such programmes are families and communities which perform as a push factors, however, in case of France, since families and communities are not fond of the government, they would not even ask their youths to join such programmes. (TheAtlantic, 2017).

Likewise, a radical person usually finds his worldview and belief appealing and accurate, so, they rarely object their own beliefs. Most of those who changed their mindset and behaviour and ‘deradicalised’ or ‘disengaged’ per se were in prison system. (Hwang, 2018, p.182). Therefore, the question should be raised that why anyone would willingly submit to 10 months long ‘voluntarily’ programme which is run by the government that they object, knowing the fact that they will be under strict surveillance at all time.

Farhad Khosrokhavar, who is an expert in the field, asserted in his 2017 interview with Gatestone Institute International Policy Council that there was nothing ‘experimental’ and ‘voluntarily’ within the programme. He adds that forcing people to wear uniforms and participate in secularist classes proved that the centre contradicts its own values. (Kern, 2017).

4.4.2. Lack of Ideological Component

One of the main drivers of radicalisation of any individual towards violent groups is the existence of ideological component. However, the programme purposefully intended to impose new secular values and patriotism by making participants sing the French nationaI anthem every morning rather than engaging in ideoIogicaI debate with them. The point is radicalisation is a development greatly influenced by ideoIogy and Iack of ideological component in any programme would bring about many probIems. It is agreeable, that while ideoIogy is not the cause of radicalisation, it is vital factor, meaning that ideology is cruciaI for peopIe to become radicalised. Nevertheless, Christmann (2012, p.49) argues that by challenging the jihadi ideology in a comprehensive way it would very vital tool to help us to end jihadi terrorism.

In order to have a chance in defeating radicalisation it is vital to comprehend and refute the ideology behind it. (Roy, 2017). Additionally, ideology as a concept is the most important, critical, and controversial part of a deradicalisation programme (Bergen, 2017, p.384). Many vital aspects of a deradicalisation programme such as effect assessment, success rate, and evaluation are directly affected by the role of ‘ideology’ in the design of such initiatives (Neumann, 2016). Surprisingly, ideological component was removed from this initiative. This could be due to the fact that there were not enough resources and willingness to tackle the issue from ideological perspective. Addressing the ideological element of radicalisation in any programmes requires years of expertise and experience (Marshall, 2016, p,237). however none of the staff available to programme possessed such expertise.

Despite of what is being said, the programme tried to add some ideological perspective to the initiative. This was as close as the programme went regarding the issue of ideology. It can be argued that countering ideology and discussing it is a serious and delicate topic. On the other hand, engaging with ideology directly might give the participants the idea that his world view is under attack and he might get into a defensive mindset and resist. Rather an individual based ideological component should have been introduced.

When we discuss the importance and role of ideology for deradicalisation initiatives, we should differentiate between two aspects of the issue. First, the role of the ideology for individual behaviour, second, how the concept of ideology is tied to the design of the programme and how its implementation aids the performance and success of the programme (Cockburn,2015, p.173). The participants of Pontourny centre were identified by authorities as people who possess radical Islamic ideology. This indicates that from the government’s points of view, the main issue with these radicals was the ideological problem. However, if we look at the structure of the centre and the programme we realise that the ideology component was completely missing from the programme.

Additionally, Horgan (2009) claims that most European programmes exclude ideology as a component from their programme on purpose. Horgan points out that ideology usually lies under the category of freedom of thoughts and its related laws in Europe. So, since it is a sensitive and delicate issue one should be careful to do not breach freedom of thoughts and expression when focusing on the ideology of a radical. However, to avoid such problems most centres in Europe avoid working directly on the ideology as whole. (Kohler,2017, p. 67).

Maddy Crowell (2017) in her article ‘ what was wrong with France’s Deradicalisation programme? ’ on the Atlantic newspaper has touched upon this point very delicately. She asserts that the problem with deradicalisation initiatives is the failure for full comprehension of the subjectivity of the issue. She argues that since every individual radical had gone through a unique path, countering the ideology of each of these participants is a challenge for the centres; as it requires years of studies and research and enormous level of fund to get the result. Crowell also believes that the programme was a ‘ total fiasco ’. She adds that the fuII-frontaI approach of the centre which includes raising the flag of France in the morning or undertaking courses in secularism and French values were aggressively nationalistic. (Crowell, 2017).

4.5. Conclusion of the Case Study

It can be argued the French centre was a total failure. It clearly failed to address the need for an in-depth deradicalisation centre in the country. As it was discussed, the main issue behind the failure of the programme can be identified as employment of wrong strategy by the government. There were many problems surrounding the programme. The programme from the outset was set up based on a wrong approach as it pursued disengagement rather than deradicalisation. This shows that the government only were looking for something to give to the citizens as a response to ease up aII the pressures.

The wrong approach meaning the notion of voluntarily aspect of the programme was also discussed. As it was mentioned, this was a prison-based programme in disguise, where inmates are obliged to attend the programme. Lacking the ideological element was also another point that was raised in the analysis. Radicalisation is an endeavour which heavily relies on ideology. The radicals are rejected by the government due to the fact that they possess an ideology against French values. But surprisingly, the French programme did not convey the importance of ideology in its programme.

Overall, the problem with French centre can also be traced back to the literature of the field. As it was discussed previously, the field lacks clarity on concepts and the lack of theoretical framework is evident. That is why when it comes to implementing programmes, implementor have no choice rather than ‘experimenting’ and taking a ‘trial and error’ and ‘collective approach’ method. However, to overcome this obstacle, policy makers and academics should work on introducing concepts and theories that does not alienate Muslims further

Also working solely on deradicalisation measures can be doomed to failure. Clearly, not everyone can be deradicalised. By focusing solely on deradicalisation people we are only focusing on the end product. Meaning we only wait until an individual is radicalised and then try to engage with him. However, preventive measures should be implemented, and the aim should be stopping the radicalisation process at its roots. Communities and families should be encouraged to cooperate with the government in tackling this growing phenomenon.

On a positive note, it can be said, even though the programme was a failure, however, it became a learning opportunity for the French government. France should bear this in mind that deradicalisation similar to radicalisation is a long process. In depth analysis of the causes and years of expertise and dedication is required to face this challenge.

Chapter 5: Final Conclusion

The research was carried out to investigate the reasons behind the failure of deradicalisation programmes. By comparing ‘deradicalisation’ and ‘disengagement, the study concluded that the field of deradicalisation is still hugely underdeveloped in terms of concepts and theoretical framework, which is one of the main reasons for the failure of some programmes. As such, it is difficult to set a fixed theoretical framework driven from some approved theories in the field of the study. In this regard, scholars such as Koehler (2017) and Horgan (2008) argue that implementation of inappropriate framework is one of the main reasons behind the failure and weakness of many initiatives. In other word, what has been taken place under the title of deradicalisation programme during last decades, in fact, was ‘disengagement’ programme.

In terms of theoretical approaches, it is important to point out that due to a lack of conceptual clarity it is difficult to find a developed and applicable theoretical framework concerning deradicalisation. It means, deradicalisation concept suffers from a lack of consensus regarding its definition as a concrete terminology.

When it comes to measuring the success of these programmes, the main problem is the ‘transparency’, as many programmes do not share any performance-based reports. Also, different initiatives employ different measures of success for their programme. Some believe that as long as the person distances himself from a violent activity, he has been deradicalised, while, others believe that a cognitive shift should be achieved for a person to be deradicalised. However, these diverse measures of success make a fair judgement difficult, especially since many programmes monitor their participants only for a few months after the completion of the programme. This means that participants could still shift back to their old mindset and ideology or for a variety of reasons engage in violent activities.

The France deradicalisation programme has occupied a large section of this research as the case study of the dissertation. Since the start of new round of terrorist attacks on the French soil back in 2015, the French government has accelerated its effort to tackle the phenomenon of radicalisation within the country. France with the highest number of Muslim populations amongst European countries also has the highest number of foreign fighters in the ISIL. In their pursuit to counter radicalisation, French government step up their campaign to fight against home grown radicalisation through various initiative, including the allocation of €45 million on new counter radicalisation measures; implementing new counter terrorism law, advanced surveillance and deradicalisation programme. France launched a deradicalisation programme in September 2016 with the hope of expanding it across the country. However, the initiative was a total failure. The centre was closed down in July 2017. This study has pinpointed the main reasons behind the failure of the programme.

Arguably, there were many reasons behind the failure of the programme. However, the study has illustrated three of the main issues. Firstly, the evident lack of concrete strategy; meaning, the programme was planned in haste. Also, as it was elaborated in the case study, performing disengagement is more feasible and less time consuming for policy makers as oppose to a thorough deradicalisation initiative which requires plenty of resources and comprehensive knowledge. Structurally speaking, the programme also had some flaws, including the evident lack of ideological component and the controversial notion of voluntarily admission.

It is alarming to see that the growth of radicalisation is still at high level; while on the contrary, deradicalisation initiatives and counter radicalisation approaches in general are moving at a very slow pace. The majority of European states have failed to address this phenomenon in a right manner. Many of deradicalisation programmes are still at the trial and error stage which illustrates a lack of solid policy. However, scholars and policy makers argue that since every person’s path towards radicalisation is unique and exclusive; it is extremely difficult to have a collective approach towards this issue.

All in all, ‘radicalisation’ is moving and expanding faster than ‘deradicalisation’ today. The void of theoretical framework and ambiguity of concepts and the willingness of states should be addressed. In this regard, supporting research projects on deradicalisation to clarify the conceptual ambiguities in order to reach common theoretical points on the issue, as well as focusing on the ideological aspects of radicalism is recommended. Furthermore, finding out the main socio-cultural factors as the main causes of creating and supporting radicalism in European societies also are recommended.


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Deradicalisation Programme. The Case of France
MSc International Relations
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deradicalisation, programme, case, france
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Amir Nateghpour (Author), 2018, Deradicalisation Programme. The Case of France, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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