On Tuesday 12 November 2019, Intercultural Dialogue Platform and Fedactio had the honour to host Mme Amélie M. Chelly, doctor of sociology and specialist on Iran and Political Islam. After a convivial moment, in which guests had the chance to know each other and have lunch, Mme Chelly introduced her book “En attendant le paradis. Anatomie des radicalisations” (Waiting for the paradise. Anatomy of radicalizations).
The theme of her work, based notably on Franco-Belgian networks, is the large number of foreign fighters who left Europe to reach the ranks of the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq and the causes and vulnerabilities that lead these people first to adopt a violent discourse and then to commit violent acts. By drawing the evolution of global jihadism since the 1990s, she distinguished three generations of Islamic radicalization in Europe: the first one (1990-2003) is represented by young Europeans who came to Bosnia and Herzegovina to support the Islamic cause, the second step (2003-2011) coincides with the rise of terrorist attacks in Europe, while the last one (2011-…) corresponds to the outbreak of the Syrian Civil War and the emergence of the Islamic State.
The typologies outlinedboth similarities and differences. The first commonality is represented by theconcept of jāhilīya, which points out the age ofignorance existing before the advent of Islam and that practically results inthe willingness on the part of individuals to make a clean sweep of their past,embrace a new life, even a new name and identity. A second similarity can bedetected in the revolutionary essence of jihadism, which wants to transformsociety by constraining the world to adapt to its radical ideology. The thirdelement consists of both the seeking for a death on the battleground, theso-called martyrdom, an idea taken from the Shias but now reinterpreted andapplied by Sunni jihadists, and the aestheticization of death.
With regard to differences, it is worth to note that third generation of jihadists has reversed the traditional hierarchy of the enemy, by considering Shiites as the first target of their military action and relegating the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to a secondary level. Moreover, new jihadism puts the military conquest of a territory along with the imposition of the Sharia at the first level of its strategy, while previously, this action was not considered an urgent matter by Al Qaida.
Finally, Mme Chelly focused on the reasons leading especially women to join the ranks of the Islamic State. The two dominant vulnerabilities of women are attributable to the deception of the results of feminism and gender equality which, according to them, have caused a deterioration of living conditions of women, and the search of virility, which they conceive in terms of physical protection and the capacity of keeping their word, like in the case of marriage.
After the presentation, several aspects of the book, such as the reversal of the hierarchy of the enemy and the difficult distinction between radicalization and rigorism, have been investigated upon the questions asked by the guests.