A year after the assassination of Samuel Paty, the Republican counter-speech on the offensive

The Minister in charge of citizenship, Marlène Schiappa, during the summer university of La République en Marche, in Avignon, on October 2, 2021. NICOLAS TUCAT / AFP

Among the many measures taken by the government in the wake of the assassination of Samuel Paty on October 16, 2020 – specific amendments to the “separatism” bill, strengthening of the Pharos platform from twenty-four to fifty agents, establishment of a specialized center against online hatred at the Paris public prosecutor’s office and reinforced dialogue with the digital giants (GAFA) -, prominently features the Republican counter-discourse unit, placed under the leadership of the interministerial committee of the prevention of delinquency and radicalization (CIPDR).

Based on the observation that Abdouallakh Anzorov, the 18-year-old Chechen refugee author of the assassination of the history and geography professor of Conflans-Sainte-Honorine (Yvelines), had radicalized online, that he had found his target on the Internet and had disseminated her attack on social networks, Marlène Schiappa, Minister Delegate in charge of citizenship, insists on the urgency of thwarting “the jihadosphere” on the Web, which is the dominant socialization space of youth.

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“We are not naive, estimates the minister, who drew, Friday, October 15, an assessment of the action of the unit of republican counter-speech. We do not believe that radical Islamism will be defeated by three tweets. But we must counter the rhetoric of radicalization and victimization of the Muslim community that is growing on the Internet. “” Our desire is to instill doubt among the young public by systematically responding to allegations of state Islamophobia “, continues Mme Schiappa. “Our response is to respond to slander and lies, specifies Christian Gravel, secretary general of CIPDR. It is important that the government takes responsibility for its responses in a revealed and assumed manner. “

Even if it means sometimes going on the attack against particularly influential individuals such as Marwan Muhammad, the former director of the Collective against Islamophobia in France, or Idriss Sihamedi, the former head of the NGO BarakaCity. Two structures dissolved after the Conflans attack. Mr. Gravel numbers around twenty the most popular influencers on the Islamist “webosphere”.

Make room for the Salafist discourse

But the unity of Republican counter-discourse does not only respond, the structure of about fifteen people (former journalists, community managers, analysts) offers specific content on the values ​​of the Republic. They deal, in the form of short informative modules, with concepts such as “freedom of expression”, the distinction between “Islam and Islamism”, “separatism”, “French secularism”, etc. “Big names” such as political scientist Gilles Kepel, philosopher Monique Canto-Sperber or lawyer Richard Malka are involved. It is a question of making room for the Salafist discourse, which has become hegemonic in the Muslim discourse online.

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