The Radical Temptation: A Survey of High School Students in France

Sociologists Olivier Galland and Anne Muxel recently published a lengthy study, “The Radical Temptation: A Survey of High School Students,” in which they surveyed 7,000 high schoolers ages 14-16 in Lille, Ile-de-France, Aix-Marseille, and Dijon.

A quarter of those surveyed did not completely condemn the Charlie Hebdo and Bataclan attacks, 80% believed that it is wrong to mock religion, 68% believed that the media did not provide the entire truth about the 2015 attacks, and a third think that “in certain cases it is acceptable to participate in violent actions to defend your ideas.”

The study offers a look into these high schoolers’ beliefs, evaluating their adherence to religious absolutism, religious violence, political radicalism, and “informational radicalism,” among those who do not have confidence in the media and tend to believe in conspiracy theories.

Within the group surveyed, 26% declared themselves Muslims. A minority of students–in particular young Muslims–adhere to a “religious absolutism.” To define the students’ adherence to religious “radicalism” or “propensity for violence”–two factors that came together for 20% of young Muslims who declared it acceptable “to fight to defend one’s religion” – they had to answer numerous questions. For example, to define the degree of “absolutism” of their religious belief, respondents considered, among other things, if “it is rather the religion which is right on the question of the creation of the world.” Eighty-one percent of Muslims answered yes, contrary to 27% of Christians.

The authors dissect the origins of these aspirations by assessing all relevant variables. Is someone more likely to adhere to violent radicalism if they are a school dropout, from a disadvantaged background, or victim of discrimination? The survey found that high schoolers’ desires for “rupture” is due to their beliefs, but also a result of their neighborhood, their relationship with the police, and their acculturation to violence.




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