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Radical salvation

Radicale verlossing – Wat terroristen geloven

Beatrice de Graaf

Prometeus, 2021

ISBN: 9789044646573

Beatrice de Graaf has interviewed some 20 violent jihadis for her book Radical Redemption, In doing so, she also sheds light on the personal souls of terrorists.

‘The suicide bomber or pious fighter often makes an explicit appeal to his God who would command him to kill ‘infidels’. But at the same time, he also appears to be beset by other motives such as a lack of recognition by his fellow man, a belief in a kingdom of salvation or utopia that he must realise, an opposition between his own ‘good’ group’ and the ‘bad’ others that is held to be absolute.


Beatrice de Graaf discusses these ‘other motives’ in more detail. The strength of her book is that thanks to the oral history method, in which she conducts several in-depth interviews, she takes jihadis’ own perspective seriously. She thus makes it plausible that they are not crazy but engaged in a coherent combination of ideology and practice, which she calls ‘orthopraxis’. Guilt over one’s own decadent life in the Netherlands, characterised by criminal profiteering and/or drug use and so starkly contrasted with the needs of Syrians, is a driving force. Only something big can still bring salvation.

Terrorism, according to De Graaf, can be summed up in four Rs: revenge, renown, reaction and redemption or, in other words, revenge on the evil world, desire for one’s own glory, drive to action and craving for atonement and then redemption. Terrorists, in short, want to become martyrs.