Violent Jihad

Why Are So Many Muslim Brothers Engineers?

A ten-year study shows a strong connection between advanced education and jihad.

BY CounterJihad · @CounterjihadUS | May 9, 2016

One of the stories about how people become radical Islamists is that they are poor and ignorant, and are thus easily swayed by the preaching of radical imams.  Certainly there is some truth to that observation, especially in regions like Afghanistan or tribal Pakistan where the radical Saudi-funded school may be the only hope for education.  In a new study based on a decade of research, however, two scholars have shown that by far the most common path to radicalization for Muslims is an education in engineering.  The London School of Economics and Political Science reports:

Why do engineers, their nations’ brightest minds and the founding fathers of the Muslim world’s postcolonial states, become the grave diggers of their own creations? …

These results deconstruct a common myth, that of Islamists as poor ignorant masses: 69% of the surveyed Muslim countries’ nationals went to university. ‘The core of the Islamist movement emerged from would-be elites, not from the poor and the dispossessed’ (p.33). The percentage of engineers among them is 44.9%. It is followed by that of Islamic Studies’ scholars, at around 18%, and then by medicine students with 10% (p.11). Scientists represent a tiny percentage, while Humanities’ graduates are absent from the pool (p.16).

The authors of the report and the authors of the review dispute the causes of the radicalization.  The authors of the study are Diego Gambetta, a social scientist of the Italian Mafia and Steffen Hertog, a political scientist specializing on the Arab Gulf.  They argue that the issue is that education in the Muslim world often fails to provide an actual route to the good jobs and increased social standing that students had been led to believe that it would.  Having worked hard for a decade at very difficult educational tasks, they discover at the end that their hopes have been false ones.  This makes them susceptible to radicalization.  Engineers on this view are the most susceptible because they work harder than many other non-technical fields, and because their field tends to be merit-based and not based on social connections.  Thus, the disappointment is greater because the hopes were more justified.

The reviewer raises a good objection to this view, which is that radicalization does not imply violence.  Even if false hopes explain radicalization, why not nonviolent radicalization?  “[W]hen checking the presence of engineers among violent and non-violent Islamist groups, the results are surprising: only 38.8% opt for non-violence, while 69.4% take up arms…. Actually, and against a preconceived notion, bomb makers are a minority among engineers enrolled in violent groups. Engineers are not ‘recruited’ to make bombs; they join by themselves, for their own reasons.”

Perhaps it is the structure of their education itself that explains this.  Engineering is about applying a system of ideas — physics or chemistry, say — to the problem of creating physical changes in the world.  Pure scientists do not worry about how to apply their ideas to creating practical changes in reality.  Scientists, like the humanities, worries about ideas per se.  The humanities especially ends up questioning the validity of any set of ideas, which makes the ideas seem less worthy of killing over.

Engineers don’t question the validity of the systems of ideas.  Engineers are in the business of figuring out how to apply the system to the world.  Engineers are the ones who take the ideas and figure out how to make them practically, physically useful.  Thus, engineers are more likely than pure scientists to think about turning ideas into physical realities.

Radical Islam is also a set of ideas.  The violent path makes more sense to the engineer because it is the physical path.  Instead of chasing after ideas, instead of writing manifestos or policy statements, violent change is an engineering solution to the problem radical Islam claims to identify.  The problem is that the world is governed in the wrong way, by corrupt human-made political systems.  The solution is destroying those systems and replacing them with sharia law.  Violent means are just a practical, physical method for attaining this goal.



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