An interview with French extremism researcher Olivier Roy: Mr. Roy, do you see a connection between terrorism and failed integration in European immigration societies?
I don’t think that Islamic radicalisation is the result of a failure to integrate. That’s only a pseudo-problem. Many of the young people who take up the banner of jihad are well integrated. They speak French, English and German. Islamic State (IS) has established a French-speaking battalion precisely because the young French and Belgians hardly speak any Arabic. The problem is not a lack of cultural integration. Even as they break with their society, the European jihadists remain dedicated to a very Western model. It is nihilistic, which is not at all in accordance with Islamic tradition. They have in many cases developed a fascination with the aesthetics of violence they know from movies and videos. In this sense, they are more like the students who ran amok in Columbine High School or the mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik.
So immigration and jihadism have nothing to do with each other?
For me, the high percentage of converts is a very interesting indicator. Nowhere else in Muslim culture is there another organisation like the IS with its 25 percent converts. So cultural explanations alone are not enough to establish what makes IS so attractive. What′s more, young people without an immigrant heritage are also drawn to the idea of jihad.
How then do you explain the terrorists′ invocation of Islam?
I am not denying that there is a religious dimension. It is important, because it means the jihadists can reinterpret their nihilism as a promise of paradise. Their suicide becomes a guarantee for eternal life. I only want to emphasise that these young people do not come from the Muslim community. Most of them have no religious education and have rarely visited a mosque. Nearly all were previously petty criminals. They would drink alcohol and take drugs. [Continue reading…]