Washington College of Law

Beyond The Paris Attacks: Unveiling The War Within French Counterterror Policy

By Khaled A. Beydoun65 Am. U. L. Rev. 1273 (2016) 

The Paris Attacks of November 13, 2015, left an indelible mark on France’s culture war with Islam and are poised to permanently reform the identity of French counterterrorism policy.  Since the beginning of the Jacques Chirac Administration in 1995, the State has maintained a hardline cultural assimilation campaign as the foundation of its counterterror program.  This campaign culminated in 2004 with the “Headscarf Ban,” and six years later—under President Nicolas Sarkozy—the enactment of the “Face Concealment Ban.”

The emerging threat of “homegrown radicalization” shifted the State’s focus from an assimilationist policy to Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) Policing in 2012.  This counterterror approach, employed in the United States, the United Kingdom, and some European states, is facilitated by building inroads within Muslim communities and developing the social capital within them to enhance on-site monitoring, electronic surveillance, and symbiotic collaboration as the fulcrum of policing and preventing radicalization.  The hardline cultural assimilation approach employed by France, however, undermines advancement of these vital CVE Policing goals, ultimately curbing its effectiveness.

First, this Article analyzes the strategic tensions between the cultural assimilation counterterror philosophy, championed by Chirac and Sarkozy, and the emergent CVE Policing paradigm.  Second, it proposes that the State’s interest in advancing its counterterrorism goals requires retrenching hardline cultural assimilation policies. Dissolution of such policies, most notably the Headscarf and Face Concealment Bans, is a vital step toward implementing a sustainable and effective CVE Policing program.

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