Khosrokhavar, an Iranian-French sociologist and retired professor at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris, has developed a "sociology of jihadism" to explain why so many Muslims in Europe become radicalized and join jihadist movements. He argues that "contempt and humiliation" are at the heart of the radicalization of Muslim youth and that their desire to "humiliate" native Europeans has become an "irresistible impulse."
Khosrokhavar finds that this societal alienation—marked by a "loss of meaning" in secular society and a "lack of hope" in the future—prompted more than six thousand European Muslims to travel to Syria and Iraq to join the Islamic State. Their "aspiration to a utopia" and their "frustration to everyday life in Europe" coupled with "urban and family problems" motivated them to join the caliphate, which, according to Khosrokhavar, "raised the hope of ending the humiliation" caused by "the subaltern position of Muslim migrants in Europe." In Khosrokhavar's words,
Those who suffered economic marginalization and social stigma developed an unrelenting sense of hatred toward society and its standards. In 2013-2014, the newborn state transformed rancor and hate into a new hope, that of a new Muslim society in the Middle East where Muslims from all over the world could achieve recognition and become full-fledged citizens, in contrast to Europe.
Khosrokhavar also faults aspects of Muslim culture and society in an insightful, in-depth analysis of the "subcultures of humiliation and counter-humiliation" among European Muslims.
In Europe, these young people feel ashamed of their non-European roots. Instead of being proud of their origins in order to gain self-confidence and become future citizens ready to access the middle classes, they develop a sense of unworthiness that embitters them from the very beginning.
Perhaps the most interesting part of the book delves into the crisis of Muslim families in Europe, showing how an increasingly feminized European culture has undermined the father's traditional authority, leading to "headless patriarchal families."
The young person who radicalizes often declares that he recognizes no other authority than God and denies his father's legitimacy, God's representative in the person of the caliph or the charismatic recruiter replacing the fallen father.
Overall, Khosrokhavar offers insights into the roots of Islamic radicalization among European Muslims, but he unfairly blames European society as the principal cause. In fact, of course, the primary sources of Islamic radicalization lie in the foundational texts of Islam—the Qur'an, Sunna, and Hadith.