Muslim chaplain deficit factor in radicalisation

The lack of Muslim chaplains in French jails is a factor in the increase in the number of people being radicalised while serving time, a Muslim chaplain said Monday.

Muslim chaplain deficit factor in radicalisation
Photo: Dustin Gaffke

The comment came after France's Interior Minister Manuel Valls predicted more arrests of Islamic extremists and warned of possibly hundreds of home-grown militants.

"In a large number of prisons, there is no Muslim chaplain," said Abdelhak Eddouk, a chaplain at Fleury-Merogis detention centre in the Paris region.

"Where there is one, radicalism does not take on the same dimensions. Even if the chaplain does not prevent the actions of radical detainees, his presence can lessen their influence," he said.

He said there were around 160 chaplains in the country but around three times that number was needed, adding that the 13 new ones budgeted for next year was far from sufficient.

Interior Minister Valls said at the weekend that France's prisons needed "trained imams" and not "self-proclaimed imams".

Eddouk said that the self-styled imams in prisons had no proper religious training but had picked up whatever knowledge they had through the Internet, books or talks with other individuals in jail.

"They see it as normal to proclaim themselves imams," he said, noting that a properly trained imam had at least four years of studies.

A nationwide police sweep at the weekend left one man dead and 12 others in detention on suspicion of either being involved in the bombing of a Jewish grocery last month or of planning other anti-Semitic attacks.

The dead man, whose DNA were found on the grenade that hit the store, is believed to have converted and been radicalised during a prison term for drug dealing.

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Former PM Valls quits Socialists to join Macron’s army of MPs in parliament

Former French PM Manuel Valls announced on Tuesday that he was quitting the Socialist Party and instead would sit among the MPs of President Emmanuel Macron's Republique en Marche party in the French parliament.

Former PM Valls quits Socialists to join Macron's army of MPs in parliament
Photo: AFP

Valls, who was PM under former President François Hollande told French radio on Tuesday morning that he was walking away from the Socialist party.

“Part of my political life is coming to an end. I am leaving the Socialist Party, or the Socialist Party is leaving me,” the 54-year-old told RTL radio.

Valls, who was prime minister under Socialist president Francois Hollande from 2014 to 2016, was rejected by Socialist voters in the party's primary to choose a candidate for this year's presidential election.

The party chose hard-left candidate Benoit Hamon instead and he failed to reach the run-off of the presidential election in May as France's two main parties fell at the first hurdle for the first time since 1958.

Earlier this month Valls was re-elected as an MP in the department of Essonne by a tiny majority.

Shortly after his announcement the majority Republique en Marche (REM) party announced that MPs had voted to allow Valls to sit among their ranks in the new parliament, which sits for the first time on Tuesday.

Macron's party won a huge majority in June's parliamentary elections, while the Socialist party only picked up 30 seats. 

However Valls will not officially be joining the REM party, but he will benefit from certain logistical advantages of being part of the majority such as having access to speaking time in parliament.

The former PM had suffered humiliation last month when he announced he wanted to join Macron's party, only to be told to join the back of the queue like everyone else.

At the time the secretary general of Macron's La République en Marche (Republic on the Move), Richard Ferrand said Valls “did not meet the criteria” of Macron's desire to renew French politics.

In the end a deal was reached and REM decided not to put up a candidate to stand against Valls in his constituency.

The pugnacious, Spanish-born Valls was Macron's boss when the now-president was economy minister and a fierce rivalry developed between them.


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