Determinants of pre-radicalization: Religious or Rebel-without-a-cause hypothesis? An empirical test among French adolescents
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The study of the profiles of young adults involved in attacks and bombings in 2015 and 2016 in France highlighted a violent rejection of Western lifestyle and national identification. The question arises whether conflicting religious beliefs (religion hypothesis) and delinquent subculture (rebel-without-acause hypothesis) characterize a handful of violent attackers only or, rather, reflect social divides in the general youth population. We propose, based on literature, that there are known two features of a pre-radicalization stage: rejection of national community and justification of political violence. We intend to focus on what explains them in France. For that purpose, we use a large representative sample (n = 9.700) of adolescents, and structural equation modeling. Overall, our findings suggest that pre-radicalization reflects larger societal cleavages. Weak identification with the national community in France appears mainly driven by religious identity, and not religious fundamentalism. Justification of violence against outgroups/agents enforcing order is not predicted by religion, neither as belief system nor as identity. The sources of legitimation of violence are mainly found in espousing a delinquent subculture, and repeat exposure to state violence in the form of pretextual police stops.