The spring issue of the ISIM Review is out, featuring another great article by Prof. Olivier Roy. I never cease to be impressed by Roy's captivating and concise writing style... it's such a relief from the boring writing style of most other academics. Even when I disagree with (or don't care about) what he's saying, I love reading his stuff because it is so well written.
Anyways, this latest article talks about Muslims in Europe. Here is an excerpt:
The quest for authenticity [among some European Muslims] is no longer a quest to maintain a pristine identity, but to go back to and beyond this pristine identity through a non-historical, abstract, and imagined model of Islam. It is not an issue of nostalgia for a given country, for one’s youth or for family roots. In this sense, “westernization” means something other than becoming Western, hence the ambivalent attitude towards it. But such behaviours do not necessarily lead to violence, although they provide a fertile ground. There are two elements that could explain the violence. The first issue is that such radicals are not linked to any real community. Their community is not rooted in a given society or culture, and hence has to be reconstructed and experienced as an act of faith. They refer to a virtual ummah (community of believers) whose existence relies on their behaviour and deeds. The obsession about blasphemy and apostasy goes along with the vanishing of the social authority of Islam. The “dreamed” community becomes a “nightmared” one. The issue of boundary” comes to the fore. By slaughtering a “blasphemer” Mohammed B. [Theo Van Gogh's alleged killer] literally inscribed the boundary on his victim’s throat. Do not trespass.
If we examine patterns of other terrorists we can observe a different and more political approach: their targets are the same as the traditional targets of the Western ultra-left of the seventies (US imperialism), and not Christianity as such. Even if they achieved a level of mass murder unknown to their predecessors, they still followed the path opened by Baader Meinhof, the Red Brigades, and Carlos. The proponents of the “clash of civilizations” should look at the footages of the hostage takings in Iraq: the “trial” of a blind-folded hostage under the banner of a radical organization, the “confession” of the hostage, followed by his execution, are literally borrowed from the staging technique of the Italian Red Brigades when they captured and killed the former Prime minister Aldo Moro in 1978.
You can read the rest of the article by downloading this pdf file (86KB), or you can browse other articles from thise issue by clicking here. Oh, and if you're interested in the topic, don't forget to order a copy of Roy's recently published "Globalized Islam: The Search For A New Ummah" (which is a follow up to his 1994 book "The Failure of Political Islam").