In an article that has circulated widely this week, Scott Atran and Nafees Hamid argue that an aggressive military response is precisely what ISIS was hoping to provoke with their attack on Paris last Friday. The authors suggest that unless European governments attend to the dire social conditions that produce young, disaffected Muslims throughout Europe, peace is very far off. Check out an except below, or read the whole article on blog of the NY Review of Books:
As our own research has shown—in interviews with youth in Paris, London, and Barcelona, as well as with captured ISIS fighters in Iraq and Jabhat an-Nusra (al-Qaeda) fighters from Syria—simply treating the Islamic State as a form of “terrorism” or “violent extremism” masks the menace. Dismissing the group as “nihilistic” reflects a dangerous avoidance of trying to comprehend, and deal with, its profoundly alluring mission to change and save the world. What many in the international community regard as acts of senseless, horrific violence are to ISIS’s followers part of an exalted campaign of purification through sacrificial killing and self-immolation. This is the purposeful violence that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the Islamic State’s self-anointed Caliph, has called “the volcanoes of Jihad”—creating an international jihadi archipelago that will eventually unite to destroy the present world to create a new-old world of universal justice and peace under the Prophet’s banner.
Indeed, ISIS’s theatrical brutality—whether in the Middle East or now in Europe—is part of a conscious plan designed to instill among believers a sense of meaning that is sacred and sublime, while scaring the hell out of fence-sitters and enemies…
Today, France has one of the largest Muslim minorities in Europe. French Muslims are also predominantly a social underclass, a legacy of France’s colonial past and indifference to its aftermath. For example, although just 7 to 8 percent of France’s population is Muslim, as much as 70 percent of the prison population is Muslim, a situation that has left a very large number of young French Muslims vulnerable to absorbing radical ideas in prison and out. Within this social landscape, ISIS finds success. France has contributed more foreign fighters to ISIS than any other Western country.
Image: An Islamic State flag in Sadiyah, Iraq, November 2014. Via NY Review Daily.