Olivier Roy and the “Islamization of Radicalism”: Overview and Critique of a Theory of Western Jihadist Radicalization


  • Lorne Dawson University of Waterloo


Oliver Roy, Radicalization, Jihadism, Islamisation of Radicalism


Olivier Roy’s argues that the radicalization of Western jihadists is about the “Islamization of radicalism” and not the “radicalization of Islam.” This argument has exerted a strong influence on terrorism studies, yet received little systematic scrutiny. This article provides an overview of Roy’s views to bring a greater measure of analytic order to his comments and open them to assessment, particularly the contention that religion plays little real role in the radicalization of European jihadists. Roy’s argument draws on an idiosyncratic distinction between the roles of “religion” and “religiosity” in radicalization that is poorly understood and open to question. In the end, while some of Roy’s ideas, such as the influence of second generation identity struggles on the radicalization Muslim youth, warrant further study, others, such as the “generational nihilism” of these youth, are counter-productive. His analysis overall is fecund and intriguing, but largely speculative and unsubstantiated. 


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