Rabat - A new study by the U.S.-based Brookings Institution suggests that French speaking countries are more likely to produce “Sunni foreign fighters” that participate in terrorism because of French political culture.
Rabat – A new study by the U.S.-based Brookings Institution suggests that French speaking countries are more likely to produce “Sunni foreign fighters” that participate in terrorism because of French political culture.
A summary of the study, published last week by Foreign Affairs magazine, said the best predictor to calculate a person’s chances of becoming radicalized was determining if the person is from a country that officially lists, or has listed, French as their official language. Four of the five countries with the highest rates of radicalization were from French-speaking countries. The top two were France and Belgium.
Researchers from the Brookings Institution – namely Christopher Meserole and William McCants – started the project last fall in order to empirically test the numerous proposed explanations for Sunni militancy around the world. After conducting an experiment with data from the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation, their results showed that the effect of being from a Francophone country on a person’s chances of being radicalized were stronger than the effects of an incomplete education, a community’s degree of internet connectivity and even wealth.
The report said Arabic-speaking countries overall create less terrorists in proportion to the size of the Muslim community because the countries’ populations are vastly Muslim. The proportions are higher in Muslim communities outside the Islamic world, including Western Europe and the United States.
Though the researchers both said that explanations for radicalization blaming the extensive terror network in Western Europe and ineffective policing in France and Belgium both have merit, the pair said the assertiveness of French political culture could play a larger role in encouraging terrorism.
“The French approach to secularism is more aggressive than, say, the British approach,” the researchers explained in their article in Foreign Affairs. “France and Belgium, for example, are the only two countries in Europe to ban the full veil in their public schools.”
Gerard Araud, the French ambassador to the United States, has been the most vocal critic of the study, citing three reasons to be skeptical of the results: the high “Arabness” of the Muslim population in France, the differences between the political cultures in France and Belgium and the fact that 90 percent of Belgian foreign fighters come from Flanders, the country’s northern, Dutch-speaking region, or from the capital Brussels, which is officially bilingual.