NEW DELHI: An eight-year old boy, Ahmed, was picked up by French police for questioning after he said in class and then on the playground, “I am not Charlie. I am with the terrorists.” At the police station, the child was questioned for 30 minutes, after which he was allowed to play with toys while his father answered questions.

Under questioning, the eight-year old confessed to not knowing what the term terrorist meant. His father condemned the attack, but made a formal complaint against the move to question the young boy. “It’s crazy. This was out of all proportion,” said the family’s lawyer, Sefen Guez Guez. “They took seriously the words of an eight-year-old child, who doesn’t understand what he is saying.”

The incident has led to a debate on whether this measure was necessary. A moderate Islamic association said the interrogation of the boy and his father was proof of France’s “collective hysteria” since the attack on the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris three weeks ago. The education minister, Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, however, said that the school had reacted “entirely correctly” by reporting the behaviour to education authorities and police, albeit adding that there was no question of legal action against the child.

The incident is perhaps reflective of increasing Islamophobia across much of Europe. Two weeks after the Charlie Hebdo attack, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls announced a plan to invest $490 million in counterterrorism efforts over the next three years.

French paper Le Monde reports: “The Prime Minister, Manuel Valls and the interior minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, have repeatedly said that one of their priorities in the coming weeks would be the fight against online regimentation by jihadist groups. New measures such as hardening of the law against the call to hate speech or extension blocking without prior judicial decision calling for terrorism sites are under consideration. Bernard Cazeneuve also announced to want to pressure on US operators like Google or Facebook for they block more content inciting hatred” (translated from French using Google Translate).

Earlier this week, we got a chance to have a look at what these ‘counterterrorism’ efforts are going to look like. Amongst the first initiatives part of the campaign are a new website and a hashtag: #StopJihadisme.

The website’s central focus is to present users with idealised versions of foreign Jihad, based on propaganda disseminated by the Islamic State and other groups. It then contrasts these with the “reality” -- hoping, thus, to dissuade potential jihadis.

#Stopdjihadisme : Ils te disent… by gouvernementFR

Referring to radicalisation, the website maintains that every case is unique, yet is able to provide a generic infographic to help users recognise that someone is being radicalised.

These developments coincide a call by the European Union -- home to 20 million Muslims -- to internet companies to help fight online terrorist propaganda. Speaking to reporters, Home Affairs Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos said that there is a need to “strengthen the commitment of social media platforms in order to reduce illegal content online”.

At the same time, right-wing anti-Islam parties are gaining strength across Europe. In Germany, the growing anti-Islamic movement protest movement registered its largest attendance yet. 25,000 supporters of Pegida, which stands for "Patriotic Europeans against Islamisation of the West,” came out in the streets in what was described as a tribute to the victims of the terror attacks in Paris.

In the UK, the rise of Nigel Farage’s U.K. Independence Party -- which in the May EU elections bested both the Conservative and the Labour Party, winning 28 percent of the vote (a major jump 16.5 percent in 2009) -- is reflective of the trend centred on anti-immigration and Islamophobia.

In the Netherlands, the Paris attacks seem to have bolstered for populist leader Geert Wilder’s Freedom Party, with support for the anti-Islamic party jumping to its highest level in more than a year. If elections were held now, the Freedom Party would be the single largest in the Netherlands, with 31 seats in the 150-member parliament, more than twice as many as it won in the last elections, according to a recent poll. In Sweden, the anti-immigration Sweden Democratic Party jumped to 13 percent of the vote in 2014.

Further, these parties seem to be finding a united ground as they have begun to cooperate in the European Parliament.

The dismal state of the European economy, of course, doesn’t help. Caught in recession it has parallels with the 1930s -- when economic misery helped radicalise middle and working classes. The conditions are the right setting for a breeding ground culminating in leaders who allege that the real culprit are Islamic immigrants -- who are lapping up all the available jobs (a picture bearing little resemblance to the socio-economic reality).

The reaction to Ahmed’s statement is symbolic of all these larger trends.