The lure of the death cult

Olivier Roy on Europe’s failure to understand the roots of radicalization

The World Today
3 minute READ

Olivier Roy

Professor, European University Institute in Florence


You have been writing on political Islam since the 1980s. What effect will the shrinking of territory under the control of Islamic State have on its ability to recruit in Europe?

Young people attracted by IS do not care about the geopolitics of the Middle East. For them it is a cause, and as long as the cause retains some territory and can produce a narrative of heroism, jihad and apocalypse it retains its appeal. Now it is urging sympathizers to strike wherever they are.

You have spoken of the ‘islamization of radicalism’. What do you mean by that?

I mean that most of the second generation recruits and all the converts have no previous Islamic teaching. Most of them were not practising Muslims at all. They became radical first, and then they chose an Islamic narrative to frame their revolt.

What are they rebelling against?

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