In one of the best articles explaining the phenomenon of jihadi terrorism that I have read, Oliver Roy gives a clear analyses of their origins. He clarifies the link between Islam and radicalisation, showing that they mostly lived a “highly secular life – frequenting clubs, drinking alcohol… and share a number of common features: second generation; fairly well integrated at first; period of petty crime; radicalisation in prison; attack and death – weapons in hand – in a standoff with the police.” Rather than Islamists they were nihilists.
Other key points that I thought were well worth noting were that, “Suicide terrorism is not even effective from a military standpoint. While some degree of rationality can be found in “simple” terrorism – in which a few determined individuals inflict considerable damage on a far more powerful enemy – it is entirely absent from suicide attacks…
The strength of Isis is to play on our fears. And the principal fear is the fear of Islam. The only strategic impact of the attacks is their psychological effect. They do not affect the west’s military capabilities; they even strengthen them, by putting an end to military budget cuts. They have a marginal economic effect, and only jeopardise our democratic institutions to the extent that we ourselves call them into question through the everlasting debate on the conflict between security and the rule of law.” It begs the question, who is ultimately behind the radicalisation of young men in the West.
Roy finishes with, “There is a temptation to see in Islam a radical ideology that mobilizes throngs of people in the Muslim world, just as Nazism was able to mobilise large sections of the German population. But the reality is that Isis’s pretension to establish a global caliphate is a delusion – that is why it draws in violent youngsters who have delusions of grandeur.” It’s well worth reading the whole article.