Jihad and Death | Olivier Roy

Summary of: Jihad and Death: The Global Appeal of Islamic State
By: Olivier Roy


In the book ‘Jihad and Death: The Global Appeal of Islamic State’, Olivier Roy seeks to provide an understanding of the motives and mindset of Western-born terrorists. Roy explains how jihad, which originally had strict regulations and was rarely called for in history, has now transformed into a concept invoked by radical leaders embracing the idea of a perpetual, personal obligation. Focusing on the emergence and appeal of groups like Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State (IS), the book explores how such organizations have shifted the purpose of jihad, resulting in an increasing number of Western-born terrorists joining their cause. You will be presented with insights into the psychology, behaviors, and beliefs of these radicals, as well as their true connection to Islam and the global suffering of Muslims.

The Evolution of Jihad

Jihad has been referred to as the “sixth pillar” of Islam and has had a military meaning since its inception. However, regulations have been put in place to impose limitations on jihad and to prevent violent escalations. Calls for jihad have been rare throughout Islamic history due to these restrictions. The idea of a global caliphate and global jihad emerged after the 1948 conflict between Israel and the Arab states. Current radical leaders have embraced a view of global jihad that portrays it as a perpetual, personal duty, deviating from the sacred texts and official exegesis.

Emergence of the Islamic State

The Islamic State emerged in 2003 in Iraq, first calling itself “al-Qaeda in Iraq,” then changing its name to “Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham” and finally to “Islamic State” in 2014. The group’s birth was triggered by the transfer of power from the Sunni to the Shia population in Iraq, which outraged the Sunni population. Between 2001 and 2015, Western-born radicals who committed attacks in Western countries claimed association with al-Qaeda, but in 2015, Amedy Coulibaly claimed allegiance to the Islamic State when he held hostages at the Hyper Cacher Market on the outskirts of Paris. Since 2014, the group has been focused on building a global caliphate.

Al-Qaida’s Scattershot Strategy

Al-Qaida and ISIS want to inflict as much harm as possible on ordinary Westerners by carrying out small, random acts of violence using cars, knives, or planes. This scattershot approach is not aimed at specific groups, and its goal is to create fear and chaos. Some attribute this strategy to al-Qaida member Abu Mus’ab al-Suri, but this is not entirely accurate since the strategy was adopted in 1998 when al-Qaida declared war on the “Jews and crusaders.” The ultimate goal was to deter Western military intervention in Muslim countries.

Roots of Modern Terrorism

The book explores how modern terrorism started in Afghanistan with the jihadis, who later spread to their home countries or moved to other places like the US to carry out terror activities. These terrorists are mostly Westernized, but they do not identify with the culture of their parents’ countries of origin. The author argues that the modern-day narrative of heroism, violence and the vanguard of the Muslim ummah motivates youths to join the Islamic State. These potential recruits are often radicalized through videos uploaded by IS which appeal to a generation raised on video games and reality TV. The author notes that terrorist organizations like al-Qaeda and ISIS don’t technically recruit Western-born terrorists as they seek out these groups themselves.

The Complex World of Modern Western Terrorists

Modern Western terrorists are not always who we imagine them to be. They lack a consistent psychological profile and are often well-integrated into Western culture. They possess only basic knowledge of Islam and become radicalized after contact with other radicals or in prison. Dying for their cause is a part of their plan, and they believe it will grant them forgiveness and religious superiority over their parents.

Do not judge a terrorist by their appearance. Modern Western terrorists are not always easily identifiable as psychopaths or radicals. They lack a consistent psychological profile, and the usual image of an oppressed person or devoted fundamentalist is not always the case. In fact, these Western-born terrorists are well-integrated into Western culture, dressing in modern attire, frequenting dance clubs, smoking and drinking alcohol, listening to rap music, and watching violent movies. They first become radicals after contact with fellow radicals in prison while 50% have been involved in petty crime, mostly drug dealing. They possess only the most basic level of religious knowledge, and about 25% are new converts with no prior connection to Islam, while 60% are second-generation immigrants who reconvert.

The appeal of the jihad for women, a paradox to the uninitiated, is actually based on a logic where activism and servitude go hand in hand. Western terrorists may declare allegiance to a global caliphate, but their connection to the world’s Muslims is imaginary. They lack understanding of specific Muslim-focused conflicts occurring worldwide. Reconversion takes place outside of a religious organization in small groups of radicalized peers. Possessing a delusion of religious superiority, they believe dying for their cause will mean forgiveness and secure their parents’ place in paradise.

We must not underestimate the complexity of modern Western terrorists. Although they claim to fight for Islam, their connection to it is tenuous, and their appeal to an increasing number of youth calls for a more comprehensive analysis of the sociological and psychological factors that lead to radicalization.

Want to read the full book summary?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Fill out this field
Fill out this field
Please enter a valid email address.
You need to agree with the terms to proceed