Radicalized LoyaltiesBecoming Muslim in the West
Radicalized Loyalties
Becoming Muslim in the West
Translated by Seth Ackerman

In the wake of the Syrian conflict and the terrorist attacks in France, the UK and elsewhere, there has been a growing concern about the 'radicalization' of young Muslims. Deprived areas of Western cities are believed to have become breeding grounds of home-grown extremism. But how do young Muslims growing up in the cities of the West really live?

This book takes us into the housing estates on the outskirts of Paris where we get to know Adama, Radouane, Hassan, Tarik, Marley and a shadowy figure whose name would suddenly and brutally become known to the world at the time of the Charlie Hebdo shootings in Paris in January 2015: Amédy Coulibaly. Seeing Amédy through the eyes of his close friends and these other young Muslim men in the neighbourhoods where they grew up, Fabien Truong uncovers a dense network of competing social loyalties and maps the road these youths take to resolve the conflicts they face: becoming Muslim.

On the peripheries of the modern city, boys become men through their loyalty to their neighbourhood, to their brotherhood, to their intangible family history, to the nation and the ideal of equal opportunities, to capitalism and its promotion of individualism, masculinity and economic success. Yet they need to move away from contradictions fuelled by an insecurity that stems from the pervasiveness of crime, policing and the political emptiness of everyday materialism.

Islam stands, often alone, as a resource or a gateway - as if it were the last route to 'escape' without betrayal and to 'fight' in a meaningful and noble way. Becoming Muslim does not necessarily lead to the radicalized 'other'. It is more like a long-distance race, a powerful reconversion of the self that allows for introspection and change. But it can also become a belligerent presentation of the self that transforms a dead-end into a call for arms.

By enabling us to understand 'them', this book also helps 'us' to understand ourselves and our societies better, as well as shedding valuable light on the new forms of violence we face in a world where one is not born, but rather becomes, a warrior.

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  • May 2018
  • 220 pages
  • 152 x 229 mm / 6 x 9 in
Available Formats
  • Hardback $69.95
  • 9781509519347
  • Paperback $24.95
  • 9781509519354
  • Open eBook $24.95
  • 9781509519385
Table of Contents
  • Note to the Reader
  • Acknowledgements
  • Introduction: The call of the ground
  • Friday the 13th
  • Behind absurdity, the social world
  • The magic of “radicalization”
  • A bad religion for “bad seeds”?
  • Finding Allah at street-level
  • Chapter 1: Common histories
  • Making a home in public housing: a French history
  • “Boys will be boys”
  • Conflicting loyalties, recognition of debts
  • “A white fence-post in a dark forest”
  • Rebels without a cause, or a cause without rebels?
  • Chapter 2: On the margins of the city
  • Imprints of school
  • The incompleteness of le business
  • Common criminals
  • Masculine machines
  • Police, death, and hatred: a political trinity
  • Chapter 3: Reconversions
  • Being or becoming Muslim? The “community” illusion
  • The Koran: reading and sharing
  • In the here and now: getting better
  • Beyond the here and now: being the best
  • The value of reconversion and the reconversion of values
  • Chapter 4: War and Peace
  • Turning thirty: the verdict
  • Toward a sociology of inner peace
  • Kif-kif
  • Desires for Syria: going off to war, over there
  • “I am Amédy”: at war, over here
  • Epilogue
  • Notes
  • Index
About the Author
Fabien Truong is lecturer in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at the University of Paris-8.
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“Truong takes us deep inside the personal world of six immigrant young men from France’s disreputable urban periphery. He shows how they navigate the promises and demands of the school, the street economy, the prison and the police, and why they are attracted (or not) by Islam as a ‘floating political imaginary.’ An insightful and urgent contribution to the analysis of the social fabrication of terrorists that punctures the sonorous but empty notion of ‘radicalization.’”
Loïc Wacquant, University of California, Berkeley

"It is not a clash of civilizations that Fabien Truong vividly describes but a collapse of communities, as young men in transitional stages of their life search for significance in the West's Muslim diaspora. If you want to understand how most overcome feelings of rootlessness and despair and how a few become jihadis, read this book."
Scott Atran, CNRS, Paris, and University of Oxford

"Truong vividly describes the lives of young men from immigrant backgrounds in the Paris banlieue, charting their trajectories from dropping out of school towards crime and then prison. This is an extremely valuable book, rich in ethnographic detail and very well written: I was irresistibly drawn in to this world of kickbacks, payoffs and unsettlingly deep resentment against the whole of French society."
David Lehmann, University of Cambridge, UK

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