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Islamist Influence a Growing Threat to French Business
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PARIS — The influence of radical Islamist groups is a growing threat to French business, a leading intelligence expert warned on Tuesday, citing the discovery of secret prayer-rooms at the Disneyland theme-park outside Paris.
In a report commissioned by several retail and courier companies, Eric Denece — director of the French Center for Research and Intelligence — said that the Islamists’ strategy is to “take control of Muslims within the workforce” and then “challenge the rules in order to impose Islamic values.
“There are numerous instances, even if few businesses are willing to speak openly about them,” Denece said in the report, which was based on interviews with police, intelligence officials and company staff.
“For example, around 10 prayer-rooms have been discovered at EuroDisney,” he said.
The claim was originally made in a report by the police intelligence service RG in mid-2004.
Spokesman Pieter Boterman said: “We are a multicultural and non-discriminatory company with more than 100 nationalities and all the main religions represented. But we do not think the company is the place for people to express private religious convictions.”
Denece also quoted the head of a freight company employing 3,000 people at Roissy-Charles de Gaulle airport outside Paris who complained to the RG of “the presence of a small group of Muslims bent on imposing their work methods under the threat of repeated strikes”.
“The growth in power of radical Islamism is a new menace, which can threaten the integrity of a business,” Denece said.
Supermarkets and other large stores are a prime target, according to the 30-page report.
“Hypermarkets have noted that employees who are heavily involved in proselytizing systematically seek out jobs as telephone operators, delivery-men, cashiers and security officers — positions which allow easy exchanges of information, money and goods,” the report said.
Muslim women working at supermarket cash registers are also being placed under pressure to wear the headscarf, it said.
According to Denece, the primary threat of Islamism to business is “sectarian”, because it can undermine the loyalty of employees and destroy morale. It should therefore be “treated in the same way as the threat from scientology and other sects”, he advised.
But he also said that there are increasing instances of patent illegality — including theft, embezzlement and the supply of inside information to criminal gangs.
“These practices have two goals: petty delinquency using Islam as a pretext and local financing of terrorism,” the report said.
Denece also criticized the “lack of transparency” in the trade in ritually slaughtered halal meat, which in France generates an estimated €45 million ($54 million) a year in fees to Islamic organizations.
Though the officially recognized French Council on the Muslim Religion (CFCR) is trying to impose some order on the system, there is known to be widespread fraud, the report said.
Last month an RG report to the French government said that Islamic militants are moving away from mosques that they know are now under close surveillance, and are congregating in secret prayer-rooms — often attached to businesses.
The same report noted that Islamist groups are increasingly raising money from clothes shops offering “street wear” for youths from the high-immigration suburbs. These are replacing butcher’s shops and Islamic libraries as a principal source of funds, the RG said.
(Posted on October 21, 2005)