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Al Qaeda in the West as a Youth Movement: The Power of a Narrative


  • Olivier Roy



In recent years there has been a strong focus on ‘Islamic radicalisation’ in Europe, due both to the threat of terrorism and its security implications, and to the issue of integrating second generation migrants in Europe. This paper analyses two main approaches to studying the roots of radicalisation. The first is vertical, and involves establishing a genealogy of radicalisation from the Koran and the first Islamic community to the present Islamist radicals. It is argued that this approach fails to understand the roots of terrorism and arbitrarily isolates ‘Muslim’ violence from other levels of violence among European youth. The second approach is horizontal and consists of putting the ‘leap into terrorism’ into the context of the contemporary phenomena of violence affecting our societies in general, and specifically youth. Following this approach, it is more productive to understand Al Qaeda in Europe as a youth movement, which shares many factors with other forms of dissent. An effective strategy to combat terrorism has two levels: one employs traditional intelligence and legal techniques to trace and neutralise cells. The second would be to destroy Al Qaeda’s narrative, by de-Islamising it, rather than demonising it as ‘bad Islam’.[ MICRON Policy Working Paper 2]

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  • Olivier Roy, 2009. "Al Qaeda in the West as a Youth Movement: The Power of a Narrative," Working Papers id:1846, eSocialSciences.
  • Handle: RePEc:ess:wpaper:id:1846
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    Radicalisation; Islam; youth; terrorism; integration; Europe; communalism; terrorism; youth;

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