The move comes in response to the murder of four police officers by a colleague who police believe had been radicalized.
In an email to its staff on Monday, October 14, the University of Cergy-Pontoise urged employees to “signal events that may have serious consequences,” referring to behavior and physical appearance considered to hide signals of Islamist radicalization.
The email, in accordance with the recent call by France’s Emmanuel Macron to be “collectively vigilant against the Islamist Hydra,” listed a typically Muslim attire and Islamic ethical recommendations as potential signs of radicalization. In the email, the university requested that its staff report fellow employees or students whose behavior they deem suspicious.
According to the list, sent to professors in the form of an Excel file, growing a beard, wearing short trousers, or a jellaba should all be considered as suspicious signals of radicalization. Also cited is a person’s “sudden change of conviction” or “heightened interest in international affairs.”
The “sudden change of conviction” mostly has to do, according to the list, with a perceived refusal to defer to “women’s authority” in professional settings or the “non-consumption of alcohol.”
As far as the “warning” list is concerned, anyone who stops consuming alcohol, starts exhibiting religious or creationist tendencies in their behavior or during conversations, declines handshakes, “suddenly stops consuming pork,” or even starts showing interest in “discussing the role of women’s ” in society is considered suspicious.
The document echoes a recent call from the French ministry of interior, which, in the aftermath of the murder of four police officers by a fellow, radicalized officer, called on French society to collectively tackle the country’s Islamist radicalization issue.
The French government called on the entire country to be “vigilant” against the “invisible signs of radicalization,” invoking long beards and “a regular and ostentatious practice of prayer” as potential radicalization signs.
When asked to comment on the move from the University of Cergy-Pontoise, however, a spokesperson from the French Ministry of Higher Education denied any links with the government’s call, saying that the university’s email was “not reflective of government’s directives.”
Likewise, in a subsequent message on Twitter, the university apologized for the “inconvenience,” tweeting that the move was “in no way a warning system.” Rather, argued the tweet, the university’s action was simply designed to help “the people who may be affected by these phenomena.”
For his part, Francois Germinet, the president of the university, stopped short of conceding that the move was discriminatory or particularly offensive to the university’s Muslim community. He merely told France’s Liberation newspaper that the email’s list “had no sense. Therefore, the message has simply and purely been removed.”
The controversy comes as France grapples with the resurgence of Islamist radicalization in the wake of the murder of the police officers. Since then, there have been rampant, repeated calls in France’s conservative circles condemning France’s supposed “cultural surrender” to Islam and Muslims.