Olivier Roy (FR) – Conversation in English

International Artists’ Stage: Voices of Europe

Tuesday 20 February 2018 at 20:00 Dronningesalen
Conversation about Islam and Europe in Dronningesalen between Olivier Roy and Jakob Skovgaard-Petersen. Photo: Steen Brogaard/ Pressefoto
Conversation about Islam and Europe in Dronningesalen between Olivier Roy and Jakob Skovgaard-Petersen. Photo: Steen Brogaard/ Pressefoto


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Islamism as a nihilistic youth cult

There are many voices in the debate about Islam, radicalism and religious fundamentalism. The political scientist Oliver Roy has caught people’s attention as an original thinker by having a different view of Islamic radicalism than many other experts.

In his present book with the stark and telling title Jihad and Death (October 2017), Oliver Roy discusses Islamic acts of terror that have taken place in Europe over the past twenty years. Here he draws attention to the remarkable phenomenon that a number of the Islamists who have engaged in acts of terror are apparently not particularly religious.

In his book he therefore also states: ‘the terrorist’s death is no longer just a possibility or an unfortunate consequence of his actions; it is a central part of his plan.’

Oliver Roy believes that Islamism must also be seen as a nihilistic youth cult, where the revolt itself is what fascinates. Violence is not the means, it is the actual end. In many ways, Islamism therefore resembles many other youth cults that alienate themselves from the conventions of society. And it is, among other things, for this reason that Oliver Roy controversially writes: ‘terrorism does not arise from the radicalisation of Islam, but from the Islamisation of radicalism.’

Having said that, Oliver Roy does not deny that a fundamentalist Islam has evolved. He merely points out that this is not in itself enough to produce the violence.

Oliver Roy rejects caricatured and banalised presentations of Islamic terror. Instead he opens up the possibility for unbiased and graded understandings of the violence that lies concealed behind the religious masks by insisting on an understanding of the individual prior to his actions.

The political scientist and philosopher, Olivier Roy, has since the 1980s been a leading researcher into Islam. He was born in 1949 and is a professor in Florence, Italy. Apart from Jihad and Death, Roy has written a number of books about Islam, terror and Asian politics. He has, among other things, written about 9/11, the Charlie Hebdo terror action and the terror attack in Paris in 2015.

Olivier Roy will be interviewed on stage by Jakob Skovgaard-Petersen, who is a historian of religion and professor of Islam and the Arab world at the University of Copenhagen. Among other awards, Skovgaard-Petersen has been given Rosenkjærprisen.


Arranged in cooperation with Institut Français and Forlaget Vandkunsten