Prime Minister Manuel Valls said extreme forms of Islam were winning the propaganda war for hearts and minds, warning the veil was being used as a political symbol for the “enslavement of women”.
Speaking at a roundtable on Islamism in Paris on Monday, the premier warned that Salafists were “winning the ideological and cultural battle” in France, home of Europe’s biggest Muslim population.
And he pledged to “massively” increase France’s security and defence budgets in the coming years, as the country grapples with a growing jihadist threat after two deadly attacks last year.
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“The Salafists must represent one percent of the Muslims in our country today, but their message — their messages on social networks — is the only one we end up hearing,” he said.
France has cracked down on extremism since a deadly jihadist attack on the Charlie Hebdo magazine in January 2015 and after Islamic State gunmen and suicide bombers killed 130 people on the streets of Paris in November.
Deadly IS bombings in Brussels last month have intensified fears that parts of Europe are turning into a hotbed for home-grown extremism.