Can a Muslim be a nihilist

Waiting for al-Godot: is the Islamist a nihilist?

In the book "Jihad and Death", political scientist Olivier Roy interprets Islamist terror as a nihilistic youth movement and the religious as a chance moment. He sees deradicalization programs as a wrong path.

We are not experiencing the radicalization of Islam, but the Islamization of radicality: The French Olivier Roy made many opponents with this catchy formula in the past year. He compared Muslim suicide bombers with the RAF or the Khmer Rouge and was convinced that nihilism, not religious fanaticism, is the central driving force behind Islamist terror.

Are Muslim suicide bombers primarily radical naysayers, is Islam a more coincidental “house” for radicalism? The thesis itself sounds radical. One cannot, of course, accuse Roy, who is teaching in Florence today, of speaking about a subject that is unfamiliar to him. He has been researching political Islam for a long time and has an excellent command of Arabic.

His thesis of the “Islamization of radicalism”, of course, neglects the social causes of terror, according to some; others accuse him of denying the role of political Islam. He by no means does both, emphasizes Roy in his book “Le Jihad et la mort” (“The Jihad and Death”), which has just been published in France, in which he elaborates on his thesis. “I'm just saying that fundamentalism is not enough to explain the violence. The violent radicalization is not the result of religious radicalization. "

Death is a goal, not a side effect

Roy assumes that in the attacks in Europe in recent years one's own death was not a side effect, but intentional - yes, the core of the attack. The Islamic tradition only honors death as a "side effect" of fighting, but not the search for it, Salafism also condemns suicide in any form. On the other hand, Roy refers to the socio-economically diverse origins of the assassins, who by no means only come from banlieues, but who have one thing in common: They suddenly become radically religious (often after a phase of delinquency).

In the following Olivier Roy finds a deep gulf between Salafism and Islamist terror, but many parallels between the "revolt" of the suicide bombers and movements such as the Chinese Cultural Revolution or the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, but also to the murderous millenarian sects like the Sun Templars in the 1990s: the desire, for example, to do tabula rasa and to rise above the parents' generation as masters of the truth, who are accused of treason; the global revolt against the world order in the name of the oppressed; and the apocalyptic orientation. For Roy, the young suicide bombers among the European migrants are a “no future” generation, fascinated by death because they have an apocalyptic sense of the world. They welcome the apocalypse because it turns their own nihilistic state into a collective one: “They don't become radical because they have misunderstood texts or have been manipulated,” writes Roy the radicalism seems tempting to them. ”Instead of deradicalization programs, he recommends taking the radicals seriously and“ allowing them to speak, just as the courts of justice let the anarchists and mass murderers speak in the 19th century ”. Only in this way could they perhaps come to repentance.

Apart from the fact that this hope does not sound very convincing: In Roy's book, the cat bites its tail. Even the nihilism of a generation, the main cause for Roy, does not come out of nowhere. And Roy even "happens" a few reasons on the side; for example that the boys would see their parents as “losers” who allow themselves to be humiliated. But the idea that young people need radicals and that it overtakes them like a law of nature seems overwhelming. So overpowering that Roy even connects radical Islamism with the disappearance of the great left utopias in the West (which may be relevant for a few converts with no Muslim background). The left, he writes, has “provincialized” and no one is better than IS in the market for radical offers.

Even intellectuals are often forced to radicalize their positions in the market for ideas. For example, Roy turns an interesting reference to nihilistic elements in the terrorist agenda into an explanatory theory. The fact that the specifically religious element is blocked out in this way may also have something to do with the “lack of imagination”, which the complainer in Karl Kraus attributes to the “transformation of people into machine energies”. The death that the young terrorists expect is simply not nothing, but full paradise. Aversion to religious beliefs can lead to their power being underestimated. That too can be dangerous.

("Die Presse", print edition, November 21, 2016)