In an interview with Eren Güvercin, Olivier Roy tries to clear up some of the misconceptions that plague and exacerbate debates over the cultural commensurability of those two great, unwieldy abstractions, Islam and Europe:
In your book you say that fundamentalist groups like al-Qaida have nothing to do with Islamic tradition. But in Europe the fundamentalist ideology is regarded as the essence of the traditional thinking. How do you explain this contradiction?
The sort of terrorism practised by al-Qaida has neither a Muslim nor a Christian history. It is an entirely new phenomenon. If we consider its manifestations – suicide bombing, killing hostages, targeting civilians – these are all methods that were used before al-Qaida by other organisations: the Tamil Tigers, for example used suicide attacks; the extreme right in Italy was responsible for the Bologna bombing in August 1980; and the al-Qaida video footage of the execution of foreign hostages in Iraq is a one to one “re-enactment” of the execution of Aldo Moro by the Red Brigades, with the organisation’s banner and logo in the background, the hostage hand-cuffed and blind-folded, the mock “trial” with the reading of the “sentence” and the execution. Al-Qaida’s modus operandi and organisation, the declared enemy of US imperialism, the recruitment of young Muslims educated in the west or converts to Islam, all this indicates clearly the al-Qaida is not the expression of traditional Islam or even fundamentalist Islam; it is a new understanding of Islam, cloaked in western revolutionary ideology.