#StopJihadism: France’s new online weapon against radicalisation

By Elsa Buchanan, International Politics Correspondent 

In a bid to fight the recrudescence of radicalisation on its territory, the French government is launching its own “anti-propaganda” online platform under the hashtag #StopDjihadism.

“Search for paradise and find hell: the jihadist propaganda wants to convince by describing a misleading ” ideal world “. Recruiters deceive people by promising them a future, an ideal or a cause to defend, where they the only thing they will encounter is manipulation, barbarism and death,” the government explained.

Made available yesterday (28 January), the platform, which name is spelt #StopJihadism in English, publishes “anti-propaganda” videos and documents aimed at those in the process of radicalisation, as well as their relatives.

One such video takes up the codes used in propaganda videos broadcast by the Islamic State (IS) and other groups such as Al-Qaeda.

The film opens on a user’s Facebook page, where he is seen clicking and liking propaganda pictures, including photos of Islamic State soldiers, waving flags or bullets.

Within seconds, the user receives and opens a private message reading:

“Hi, The things you’re liking are cool. Are you interested in what’s happening now in the Cham [name given to the regions which extends from Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine to Turkey] ? If you have [any] questions, don’t hesitate; truth is over there, now is the time to go there! If you want more info, give me your number I have got friends who are fighting there, I’ll put you in touch.”

The government’s film then lists the arguments used by the radical groups, such as “They tell you: ‘Sacrifice yourself by our side. You will defend a just cause’” before debunking them by showing images of the reality of the situation in Syria.

“The reality: You will discover hell on earth, and die alone, far from home,” the movie says, before showing the image of what appears to be prisoners lying face down on the ground below armed gunmen pointing their weapons to their backs.

The next image shows the body of a prisoner being thrown like a paper doll down a rugged cliff.

Another argument used in the movie is destined to young Muslim girls that leave their countries to become ‘jihadi brides’.

“They tell you: ‘Come and start a family with one of our heroes’ ”, the film reads.

Against a background pictures of crying refugee Syrian children, the film then warns: “The reality: You will raise your children in war and in terror”.

The film then tackles the pretext of humanitarian action wielded by the jihadists, before contrasting it with the reality of the massacres and atrocities against civilians perpetrated by these groups.

The movie lists some such arguments, including “Join us and help Syrian children” (“The reality: You will be an accomplice of the civilian massacre”) and “You live in a world of disbelievers, impure, the truth is here” (“The reality: The only truths that you will discover are horror and deceit”).

The film ends with these words: “Jihadist indoctrination speeches make new victims every day “.

The government’s #StopDjihadism web platform provides users with four distinct sections: Understand, Act, Deciphering and Mobilisation.

The powerful “anti-propaganda” video sits along a series of filmed interviews in which Pierre N’Gahane, the head of the Inter-Ministerial Crime Prevention Committee, Pierre-Henry Brandet, a spokesman of the Interior Ministry and the head of the Anti-terrorism Unit, Loïc Garnier, tackle the dangers of indoctrination.

To explain the radicalisation process, the platform also proposes interview of Dounia Bouzar, an anthropologist and Elise Bas, a psychologist working on the anti-indoctrination hotline.

While it seems the Charlie Hebdo and Kosher supermarket attackers, the Kouachi brothers and Amedy Coulibaly, were radicalised in prison, the Prime Minister, Manuel Valls and the interior minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, have repeatedly said that one of their priorities in the coming weeks would be the fight against online indoctrination by jihadist groups .

To this end, new measures are under consideration, according to French media. These could include a hardening of the law against speeches inciting hatred, or an extension of the blockage of websites calling for terrorism, without need for a prior court decision.

On 21 January, Valls already pledged to boost France’s anti-terror strategy by creating more than 2,500 jobs to carry out security, intelligence and surveillance work.

He stated that more Muslim clerics would be recruited to tackle radicalisation in prisons.

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