Olivier Roy has been a consultant to the French Foreign Ministry and United Nations, is currently a professor at the European University Institute in Florence, and noted early that al Qaeda was drawing many of its recruits from Western Europe rather than from Saudi Arabia or Palestine or Pakistan. And he is probably right that the motives of people like the Tsarnaevs and Nidal Malik Hasan are less religious than personal. But when he tells New Republic that “They may have gone to mosques, but they were never an integral part of a congregation, they have no real life, social life. Their social life is through the Internet,” he misleads us in two important ways.
One is by overlooking the fact that the use of mass violence and terrorism by relatively isolated people and groups long predates the internet.
And although they may not have been “an integral part” of the congregation of a mainstream mosque, it is not true that the members and imams of mainstream who want to help prevent such things “can’t comply because they guys are not part of these communities (so) they have no access to these guys.” They may not have direct access to the perps themselves, but they certainly have the capacity to more effectively denounce the preachers whose ravings sustain and drive them on.
And we should not forget the cases where mainstream Muslims can and do detect and deflect those who may be on the path to violence.