A Generational and Nihilist Revolt

8 9 2017

A Generational and Nihilist Revolt

Olivier Roy presents his study of 150 radicalised Islamist youths in Europe

In a busy Palazzo San Sebastiano, Oliver Roy opened his talk with three key words from his latest book, Generazione Isis: nihilism, deculturisation, death.

Three terms that link the 150 stories of young radicalised Muslims in France and Belgium, the subject of the French scholar's latest work. Analysing profiles and comparing data taken from other European countries, Roy has been able to identify a kind of 'social identitkit' of young active Islamist terrorists in Europe.

"Theirs is primarily a generational revolt that has little to do with integration, political movements or religious communities," the author stressed, supported by data taken from his latest study. In 80% of the cases analysed by Roy's team, the radicalised individuals were second generation immigrants or converts to Islam; people looking for a 'pure' religion without the influence of culture (hence 'deculturation'). Young people who are fluent speakers of the language of their countries and engage with subcultures from the Western world.

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The cultural element is soon transformed into a breaking point between the jihadists and their families, to the point of triggering a 'generational uprising' process in which parents do not understand or excuse their children's' actions, as was the case with the recent attack in Barcelona.

Roy maintains that those individuals he has studied are driven to create the image of a hero, driving by the obsession of striking a society that does not consider them. "ISIS, with its aesthetics of violence, offers them a fascinating narrative construction that is amplified by social networks," explained the French academic.

Young radicalised people do not come together under the ideal of different society or a more just world (an anomalous element in the context of terrorist organisations). Their plan does not involve a plan for the future and death becomes an end in itself, the utmost expression of nihilism. "They are so convinced of paradise that they actively seek death, even if it could be avoided," said Roy. "That is why there is no room for mediation with this type of terrorist."