Olivier Roy (political scientist)

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Olivier Roy, 2017

Olivier Roy (born 1949 in La Rochelle) is a French political scientist, professor at the European University Institute in Florence, Italy.[1][2] He has published articles and books on secularisation[3] and Islam[4] including "Global Islam",[5] and The Failure of Political Islam. He is known to have "a different view of radical Islam" than some other experts, seeing it as peripheral, Westernized and part of a radicalized and "virtual" rather than pious and "actual" Muslim community.[6] More recently he has written on the Charlie Hebdo shooting,[7] and the November 2015 Paris attacks.[8]

Early life[edit]

Roy was born in 1949 in La Rochelle.[9] Roy received an agrégation in philosophy and a master's degree in Persian language and civilization in 1972 from the French Institut National des Langues et Civilisations Orientales. In 1973 he worked as high school teacher. In the 1970s he was active in the maoist movement "La Gauche prolétarienne" (Proletarian Left).[10] In 1996, he received his PhD in political science from the IEP.


He was previously a research director at the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) and a lecturer for both the School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences (EHESS) and the Institut d'Études Politiques de Paris (IEP).

From 1984 to 2008, he was a consultant for the French Foreign Ministry. In 1988, Roy served as a United Nations Office for Coordinating Relief in Afghanistan (UNOCA) consultant. Beginning in August 1993, Roy served as special Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) representative to Tajikistan until February 1994, at which time he was selected as head of the OSCE mission to Tajikistan, a position he held until October 1994.[11]

Roy is the author of books on Iran, Islam and Asian politics. These works include Globalized Islam: The search for a new ummah, Today's Turkey: A European State? and The Illusions of September 11. He also serves on the editorial board of the academic journal Central Asian Survey. His best-known book, L'Echec de l'Islam politique (1992) (The Failure of Political Islam) (1994), is a standard text for students of political Islam.

Roy wrote widely on the 2005 civil unrest in France, rebutting the suggestion that the violence was religiously inspired. He argues that Islamism is merely the rubric under which troubled youth enact their violent inclinations.[12] A view adamantly opposed by Roy's intellectual rival, Gilles Kepel.[12]

According to Judith Miller, in the wake of the September 11 attacks Olivier argued that militant Islamism of the type represented by Al Qaeda had peaked and was fading into insignificance.[13]

His book Secularism Confronts Islam (Columbia, 2007) offers a perspective on the place of Islam in secular society and looks at the diverse experiences of Muslim immigrants in the West. Roy examines how Muslim intellectuals have made it possible for Muslims to live in a secularized world while maintaining the identity of a "true believer."

In 2010 he published Holy Ignorance, When Religion and Culture Part Ways, an analysis of religion, ethnicity and culture and the results when these part ways.

After the Charlie Hebdo shooting he argued that most French Muslims were committed to prevent violence,[14] and after the November 2015 Paris attacks, he wrote a strategic analysis of ISIS and the fight against it, published in The New York Times.[8]

In 2017, Roy's assertion that jihadi terrorism is only loosely connected to Islamic fundamentalism was criticised by French scholar Gilles Kepel, who said that Roy neither speaks Arabic nor looks into the Salafi doctrine behind the jihadism.[15] Roy has said "I have been accused of disregarding the link between terrorist violence and the religious radicalisation of Islam through Salafism, the ultra-conservative interpretation of the faith. I am fully aware of all of these dimensions; I am simply saying that they are inadequate to account for the phenomena we study, because no causal link can be found on the basis of the empirical data we have available."[16]

Other activities[edit]


Further reading[edit]


  1. ^ "Olivier Roy". European University Institute. Retrieved 2015-11-30.
  2. ^ "Olivier Roy on Laicite as Ideology, the Myth of 'National Identity' and Racism in the French Republic". jadaliyya.com. Retrieved 2015-07-30.
  3. ^ "The disconnect between religion and culture". eurozine.com. Archived from the original on 2016-04-06. Retrieved 2015-07-30.
  4. ^ "Olivier Roy". Goodreads. Retrieved 2015-07-30.
  5. ^ Steele, Jonathan (2004-07-13). "Secularism Confronts Islam". The Guardian. Retrieved 2015-07-30.
  6. ^ Judis, John B. (2013-05-22). "Boston: More Like Sandy Hook Than 9/11 - A conversation with Olivier Roy on the nature of the alleged Marathon terrorists". The New Republic. Retrieved 2015-11-30.
  7. ^ "There Are More French Muslims Working for French Security Than for Al Qaeda". The Huffington Post. 2015-09-01. Retrieved 2015-11-30.
  8. ^ a b "The Attacks in Paris Reveal the Strategic Limits of ISIS". The New York Times. 2015-11-16. Retrieved 2015-11-30.
  9. ^ "Background (Conversations with History: Institute of International Studies, UC Berkeley)". University of California, Berkeley. Retrieved 2015-07-30.
  10. ^ "Olivier Roy, politologue un peu Tintin", telerama.fr, interview ,9 november 2014
  11. ^ "Curriculum Vitae" (PDF). European University Institute. Retrieved 2015-11-30.
  12. ^ a b Nossiter, Adam (12 July 2016). "'That Ignoramus': 2 French Scholars of Radical Islam Turn Bitter Rivals". New York Times. Retrieved 13 July 2016.
  13. ^ Miller, Judith (29 September 2002). "Naming the Evildoers". New York Times. Retrieved 12 July 2017.
  14. ^ "There Are More French Muslims Working for French Security Than for Al Qaeda". The Huffington Post. 2015-09-01. Retrieved 2015-11-30.
  15. ^ Lerner, Davide (2017-06-14). "London Gave Shelter to Radical Islam and Now It's Paying the Price, French Terrorism Expert Says". Haaretz. Retrieved 2018-06-09.
  16. ^ Roy, Olivier (13 April 2017). "Who are the new jihadis? | Olivier Roy | The long read". The Guardian.
  17. ^ Members European Council on Foreign Relations.

External links[edit]