A French scholar delineates the attractions of violent extremism, specifically jihadi Islam.
In this concise translation from the French, Khosrokhavar (Director of Studies/School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences, Paris) moves from general notions of radicalization, which have historically involved pockets of marginalized and ghettoized minorities from the 11th-century Assassins to the Europeans terrorists in the “years of lead,” to the specific current ideological radicalism in the Muslim world. What has changed? The author emphasizes that this newest crop of radicals involves a phenomenon that is “more intense” than previous eras: larger in scope, more widespread, enduring over a longer period of time, and involving more random violence and a troubling “capacity to adapt to extreme situations through reorganization”—e.g., the adaptability of al-Qaida. Khosrokhavar finds that radicalization takes different paths in the Muslim world and in the European theater. In the former, the radicals tend to be young people from the middle classes who feel disenfranchised against corrupt and authoritative regimes and are bent on establishing “a transnational Islamic regime.” In the latter, young radicals emerge from the lower social strata in tough neighborhoods and are often children of immigrants, such as the young people of North African descent in France. The author looks at the small but growing numbers of women joining radical jihadism, often acting to avenge the death of a husband, brother, or father or acting out (in a severely repressed Muslim society) from an “antipatriarchal, even feminist dimension.” Living in France, Khosrokhavar is particularly attuned to the radicalization that occurs among the young immigrants living in the banlieues of Lyon and elsewhere, fraught by ghetto conditions and “intense dehumanization,” and he offers insight into the radicalization that occurs in prisons, when vulnerable criminals are converted by a charismatic “radicalizer.”
A timely, systematic breakdown of thee reasons for radicalization.