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Why Are Young Europeans Joining the Jihad? By Jürgen Manemann

In short by Cornelius Sturm

Jihadist groups exert a strong fascination on people with identity disorders. Jürgen Manemann believes that inner emptiness, lack of empathy, feelings of powerlessness, and negative body image are characteristic of the mental state of jihadists, especially European ones. Many of them feel excluded and isolated. Fanatical ideology offers them the stability they previously lacked.

Manemann argues that prevailing explanations of the attraction of jihadist terrorism are insufficient. It is not simply a matter of religious or ethical backgrounds, or belonging to particular social strata. Demonization doesn’t help either, since it ignores the question of what causes the fascination.

Manemann points instead to a hatred of life at the heart of jihadist ideology. Jihadism is thus seen as a form of active nihilism, which regards life as worthless. In their enthusiasm for death, terrorist groups resemble the fascist movements of the twentieth century. They compensate for their fear of human weakness and vulnerability with violence. Based on this insight, strategies can be developed to prevent young people from becoming radicalized.