Academic journal article Middle East Quarterly

Engineers of Jihad: The Curious Connection between Violent Extremism and Education

Academic journal article Middle East Quarterly

Engineers of Jihad: The Curious Connection between Violent Extremism and Education

Article excerpt

Engineers of Jihad: The Curious Connection between Violent Extremism and Education. By Diego Gambetta and Steffen Hertog. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2016. $29.95.

What is the common link between these terrorists: bomb-maker Ramzi Yousef; his uncle Khalid Sheikh Muhammad, operational leader of the 9/11 attacks; 9/11 hijacker Muhammad Atta; Finsbury mosque preacher Abu-Hamza al-Masri; and Palestine Liberation Organization's Yasir Arafat? They were all engineers.

In 2002, Stephen Emerson observed in American Jihad that "some of the worst antiAmericanism among Muslim fundamentalists comes from people who are often remarkably well educated-engineers, doctors and even scientists." In this study, Gambetta and Hertog explore the remarkable over-representation of engineers among jihadists.

The authors mostly reject prominent explanations for the root causes of Islamist terrorism: relative deprivation, social movement, and demand driven theories. Their study offers valuable statistical analyses that lead them to conclude that "ideology matters." Importantly, "engineers are nearly absent among left-wing groups ... dominated by graduates in the humanities and the social and psychological sciences, of whom we had found barely any among Islamist radicals." Unfortunately, too much effort is expended trying to establish that "right-wing extremism has much more in common with Islamist radicalism than with left-wing extremism"- without satisfactorily defining either left-wing or right-wing. …

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