In his French-written study, published in the Cahiers de l’Institut Religioscope in August 2016, Olivier Moos looks at home grown jihadism in Europe and the reasons why some young Muslim Europeans join ISIS.

The diversity of itineraries

A historian at the University of Fribourg (Switzerland) and at the Ecole des Hautes etudes en sciences sociales (France) , Olivier Moos, points out the diversity of itineraries and the impossibility to find any decisive variable to explain the enrollment in jihadi groups. Particularly in terms of social background, since many profiles challenge our most common preconceptions. For example, many jihadis do not belong to the most economically marginalized fringes of their society; not all of them have a previous criminal experience; 20 to 30 % of jihadis (depending on the country) are converts, thus have not been raised in Muslim-practicing families, etc .

No “chemical formula”, but some trends

However, and to quote Olivier Moos: “If it is impossible to know in a exhaustive manner, like for a chemical formula, what drives an individual to embrace an extremist thought or to carry on a terrorist action, it is however possible and necessary to circumscribe a certain number of aspects of this phenomenon”.

Thus for the author, some tendencies can be identified. More than politics and ideology, young Muslims that turn to jihadism are above all motivated by a research of status and identity. This process is more emotional than rational.

Moos pays special attention to the “branding” of the Islamic state – which explains the reference to “Prada” in the study’s title.. – and shows how the propaganda of the so-called “Islamic state” functions as a counterculture par excellence. If ISIS is so seductive for its targets, it is also because its propaganda and the urban/”ghetto” subculture share an aesthetics of violence and of transgression.

 By Farida Belkacem

Source :

Olivier Moos, « Le djihad s’habille en Prada », Cahiers de l’Institut Religioscope, n°14, August 2016 :

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