Security officials from several European countries have developed a manual to help prison authorities prevent their jailhouses from becoming incubators for Muslim extremists.
The manual, developed by France, Germany and Austria, includes signs that may indicate that a prisoner was becoming radicalized, including the presence of a growing beard. A prison group feared the manual could stigmatize Muslim inmates.
The document was distributed at a two-day closed-door conference of European security experts that ended Wednesday. It will be given to prison personnel.
Prisons “can be a facilitator and an accelerator” of radicalization and inmates are often “strongly destabilized” and therefore malleable, said Christophe Chaboud, head of France’s Anti-Terrorist Coordination Unit.
Islam is the second-largest religion in France and, while there are no official figures available, Muslims make up a large part of the inmate population—the majority in some prisons.
A disproportionate number of Muslims can be found in prisons in other European Union countries.
The manual contains sensitive information drawn from experiences from European and other security officials, including New York City police, Chaboud said. For security reasons, there are no plans to make its contents public.
Experts say radicalization can range from an interest in religious books to hostility toward non-Muslims seen in a refusal to shower with them. Several top officials said new beards were one warning sign.
The spokesman for the International Prison Observatory, Hugues de Suremain, voiced fears the manual could further stigmatize Muslim inmates, who lack the range of religious benefits provided to Christians.