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Home Uncategorized In Love With Death

In Love With Death

Eugene Brennan
Jihad and Death: The Global Appeal of Islamic State, by Olivier Roy, Hurst, 136 pp, £15.99, ISBN: 978-1849046985 When ISIS declared the caliphate in 2014, initial analyses highlighted a new terrorist logic at odds with that of previous forms of jihadi terrorism. Al-Qaeda’s mode of operation was largely based on the idea of an explicit war on the West while ISIS initially seemed more focused on local horizons, terrorising and ethnically cleansing Shia Muslims and “heretics” in northern Iraq. Al-Qaeda attempted to strike on the basis of a decentralised global network with loosely anchored local cells, while ISIS were firmly focused on reterritorialisation, prioritising, as the name suggests, a state. Since then we have seen attacks on a range of Western cities, which seems to disrupt any neat distinction between the logic of the two jihadi groups. ISIS depends on the myth of the caliphate for its propaganda and recruitment, but its attacks on far-flung, opportunistic targets appear to resume the project of global decentralised warfare, if in even more horrific and theatrical terms than Al-Qaeda. Olivier Roy’s newly translated Jihad and Death: The Global Appeal of Islamic State provides crucial insights into the contradictions and consistencies of modern jihadi terrorism, with a particular focus on attacks carried out by Western jihadis. It starts from the observation that the attacks claimed by both Al-Qaeda and ISIS exhibit a specifically modern phenomenon: the systemic use of suicide as a weapon. The differences between the groups mask a more crucial common tendency in the active pursuit of death on the part of the attacker(s), which only became more prominent in these kinds of attacks from the mid-nineties. The book thus sets out to examine a suicidal nihilism which is historically and generationally specific. Before getting to the core of the argument, Roy initially proceeds by undermining numerous miscomprehensions prevalent in both left- and right-wing perspectives on contemporary terrorism. Some of the most important of these concern the relationship between Jihad and Islam, already explored by Roy in Globalized Islam (2004) among other works. Much debate in the West on this subject has largely been shaped by the interdependent narratives of reactionaries and liberals. For the former, it is often asserted that “our values” are threatened by a “clash of civilisations”. Passages from the Quran are often cherry-picked to show how Islam is inherently violent. Liberals then get duped into this narrative framework by cherry-picking passages of…

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