​Thompson, David (2018) The Returned: They Left to Wage Jihad, Now They're Back. Cambridge: Polity. xi+265 pp.

​ISBN: 978-1-5095-2691-8 (print) / 978-1-5095-2690-1 (online)

Richard Gehrmann

University of Southern Queensland

​Why a minority of young Muslims leave Western affluence to face danger and uncertainty in a Syrian war zone is a question answered in The Returned, which uses interviews with jihadis whose encounters with war were often vastly different from their expectations. French journalist David Thompson’s examination of European-raised Jihadist experiences makes compelling reading, and his non-academic perspective enhances the book’s readability and usefulness. Thompson incorporates work by academics but primarily relies on his informants to tell their stories. These compelling personal accounts reveal the diverse range of experience by mostly young French citizens whose motivation varies from discontent with a vacuous European culture, desire for adventure, a quest for sexual pleasure, marriage to a ‘hot’ guy, and a search to find fulfilment and status in an ISIS-controlled world, one where those who have been the dominated in France will become the masters. Others found their teachers’ insistence that terrorist activity was un-Islamic failed to convince, because young people were clever enough to read the Koran to find their own validation. The Internet and video platforms were highly significant influencers, in a virtual world of ‘LOL jihad’ where smiling selfies with an AK-47, a decapitated head or just an ice cream in Raqqa gained equal likes. For some, inner-city French immigrant gang culture translated easily to Syria, while for many others, dislocated expectation resulted in desperate attempts to escape, although return home did not mean acceptance of the status quo. This account will appeal to defence and security analysts, to critical academics, and a wider community seeking to understand why such apparently inexplicable choices are made.