This "Are You A Jihadist?" Chart France Created Is Well-Intentioned, But Poses Its Own Problems
Last week, the French government announced a sweeping new counterterrorism plan that hopes to address some of that collective fear caused by the January attacks. The $480 million initiative includes several offensives to stop terrorism at the source, by preventing youth from turning to jihad. One of the tools of the initiative is France's "Are You A Jihadist?" chart, which lists several warning signs that could indicate that someone is in the process of becoming radicalized. While stopping the issue at the source is no doubt an effective strategy, the chart is far from perfect.
On January 21, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls initiated the country's massive new counterterrorism plan, which involves the creation of 2,680 jobs dedicated to stopping terrorism and cyber patrols seeking to curb online radicalization. The online campaign also includes videos designed to lure potential recruits away from jihad. On Wednesday, the French government released a video called "Stop-Djihadisme: Ils te disent…" or "Stop Jihadism: They tell you…" which debunks the propaganda radicals use to indoctrinate their recruits.
Another tool the initiative has created is a visual chart that helps French citizens determine whether they or anyone they know might be exhibiting behavior that might lead to radicalization.
The title is translated as "Jihadist Radicalization: The First Warning Signs." The introduction reads:
The following behaviors can be signs of radicalization in progress. The more one exhibits, the more urgently they should alert their family and friends.
The specific warning signs are as follows:
They are suspicious of old friends, who they now regard as "impure."
They reject their family members.
They suddenly change their eating habits.They drop out of school or vocational training because the education provided is part of a conspiracy.They stopped listening to music because it was diverting them from their mission.They no longer watch television or go to the movies because they show images forbidden in radical Islam.They stop participating in sports activities because they mix genders.They change the way they dress and start wearing attire that cover their bodies — this pertains especially to women.They start visiting radical and extremist websites and social networks.They withdraw into themselves, become anti-social, and reject all forms of authority and community life.
These could all potentially be telling signs of someone who's in the process of becoming radicalized, but many of the signs could also be indications of general anti-social behavior — nothing to do with wanting to become a jihadist. For example: rejecting family members, distancing oneself from friends, and withdrawing into themselves.
Likewise, it's fairly obvious that frequently visiting jihadist websites and social networks is a telling sign. It's difficult to categorize it together with changing one's eating habits or rejecting their family members. Again, the latter two could involve a myriad of factors and reasons that have no relation to radical Islam.
Furthermore, some of these signs overlap with converting to Islam, and it should go without saying that that's not at all the same as becoming radicalized. For example, changing one's attire and ceasing to participate in coed sports are traditional customs observed by Muslims, and this kind of lumping together dangerously blurs the lines for Muslims among France's population.
The chart may be flawed, but it does seek to address a very urgent and unrelenting problem that has seen thousands of young people being recruited into jihad. And right now, the French people are likely to accept anything that could help prevent another Charlie Hebdo-like attack from happening.
Images: Stop-Djihadisme, Getty Images (2)