1st Edition

Understanding Islamist Terrorism in Europe Drugs, Jihad, and the Pursuit of Martyrdom

By Lewis Herrington Copyright 2022
    204 Pages 10 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    204 Pages 10 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This book argues that guilt, shame, and remorse, associated with a history of substance abuse, explain why a minority of Islamist extremists carried out suicide terrorism in Europe between 2001 and 2018. 

    Since 9/11, Islamist terrorism has dominated the European security landscape, but there has been little systematic analysis of either the attacks or the men responsible. This book addresses that gap, drawing on terrorist discourse, court transcripts, elite interviews, government reports, and three years of ethnography to provide an exhaustive account of how and why Islamist terrorism has occurred in Europe. Making a detailed analysis of 48 terrorist attacks carried out by 80 suicide terrorists, the book introduces two new theories. The first argues that most of these men first engaged in Islamist extremism as an alternative to substance abuse. The second contends that, following a five-stage process of radicalisation, cognitive dissonance triggered guilt, shame, and remorse over previous misconduct. From this emotional distress, suicide terrorism emerged as a rational choice ahead of either suicide or a return to active addiction. This book argues that the root cause of suicide terrorism in Europe is not so much politics or religion but is more about personal crisis and a search for redemption.

    This book will be of great interest to students of terrorism/counterterrorism, de-radicalisation, political Islam, and security studies in general.


    1. Defining Martyrdom Terrorism

    2. Martyrdom Terrorism in Europe

    3. Who Pursues Martyrdom in Europe?

    4. The Fellowship of Islamic Extremists

    5. Radicalisation

    6. Why Men Pursue Martyrdom

    7. Towards A Theory of Martyrdom Terrorism in Europe

    Conclusions: Towards A Counter Martyrdom Strategy


    Lewis Herrington teaches Politics of the Middle East at Regents University, UK.

    'This fascinating book is required reading for all with an interest in understanding extremism and martyrdom in modern Europe. Dr Herrington offers a profound insight into the theology, theory, psychology, and political aspirations of those pursuing Islamist terrorism. He provides a compelling portrait of how heresy has taken hold, and of the dangers it presents. Anger with terrorists is not enough for dealing with this contemporary and severe risk to public safety and national security: understanding the motive forces behind it is essential. That understanding is increased by this excellent book.'-- Lord Carlile of Berriew, CBE, QC, former Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, UK