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Olivier Roy

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Olivier Roy is senior researcher at the French National Center for Scientific Research. He also serves as a consultant with the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He has served as a consultant for United Nations Office of the Coordinator for Afghanistan, special envoy for the Organization for Security and Cooperation Europe (OSCE) in Tajikistan and head of the OSCE's mission for Tajikistan. He is the author of books and articles on political Islam, the Middle East, and Central Asia.

His views on these depart radically from those prevalent in the Bush administration. Rather than depicting it as a clash of world-view or civilization he considers the activities of Al Qaeda to be mostly a typical secular anti-imperialist movement, using religious motives as a cover. From "Radical Islam - a Middle East phenomenon or a consequence of the globalization of Islam?" published by the Open Society Institute:

'Roy compared contemporary Islamic radicals with leftist radical groups of the 1970s, such as the Red Brigade in Italy and the Baader-Meinhof gang in Germany. He asserted that political considerations fueled the September 11 attacks.
"The violence that we see now has little to do with Islam, it's nationalism," Roy said. "These guys are fighting American imperialism, they are not fighting Christianity."
"A significant number of al Qaeda members, especially non Saudis, are "born-again" Muslims, defined as those who have recently embraced Islam, and many of whom have lived the West and had lengthy exposure to Western culture. Mohammad Atta, the reputed ringleader of the September 11 attacks, became a born-again Muslim while living in Hamburg, Germany, Roy noted. Between one-third and a half of those in terrorist networks are those who could be characterized as born-again Muslims," Roy estimated.
'A vital, if currently underappreciated trend is that radical Islam is developing in the West and is being exported to the Middle East and Central Asia". Roy cited the Hizb-ut-Tahrir, which calls for the non-violent reestablishment of an Islamic caliphate across the Middle East and Central Asia, as an example of the current trend. Hizb is based in London, but its supporters are increasingly active in Central Asia, working underground to undermine established authority in the region.'
"London is the Mecca of radical Islam," Roy said, adding that those willing to engage in radical activity, including terrorism, "don't convert for Islam, they convert for political purposes."

To the degree Roy's view is accurate, then attempts to portray conventional Islamism as inspired by Mawdudi and the Wahabist figures of the 20th century as responsible for the current upsurge of energy in the Islamic World constitute disinformation and propaganda of the most profound sort, designed to get traditional Muslim authority and global American power at odds, perhaps to clear the way for what amounts to left-wing revolutions in the wake of invasions, but in a form that appears more like Islamic revolution.

  • Winner of the 2006 Council on Foreign Relations: Arthur Ross Book Award


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