Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Oxford Study Links Engineer's Mindset to that of Extremists

In an interesting study (sure to be controversial), Oxford researchers have published a paper analyzing the education levels of Islamist terrorists and found that engineers account for a large number of the individuals involved in terrorist acts:
"We find that graduates from subjects such as science, engineering, and medicine are strongly overrepresented among Islamist movements in the Muslim world, though not among the extremist Islamic groups which have emerged in Western countries more recently. We also find that engineers alone are strongly over-represented among graduates in violent groups in both realms. This is all the more puzzling for engineers are virtually absent from left-wing violent extremists and only present rather than over-represented among right-wing extremists. We consider four hypotheses that could explain this pattern. Is the engineers’ prominence among violent Islamists an accident of history amplified through network links, or do their technical skills make them attractive recruits? Do engineers have a ‘mindset’ that makes them a
particularly good match for Islamism, or is their vigorous radicalization explained by the social conditions they endured in Islamic countries? We argue that the interaction between the last two causes is the most plausible explanation of our findings, casting a new light on the sources of Islamic extremism and grounding macro theories of radicalization in a micro-level perspective."
The researchers hypothesize that part of the reason for this phenomena is that engineers have a mindset that is related to right-wing extremists and Islamist extremists, in particular.
"We failed to find engineers among left-wing extremists: with the exception of a handful among anarchists, there is hardly any trace of them...

"By contrast, among right-wing extremists, engineers if not over-represented seem at least present. Among 287 right-wing extremists and neo-Nazis in Germany and Austria involved in 33 groups, we found 29 individuals with known higher education 6 of whom were engineers. In the US extreme right, whose ideology often has a strong religious and millenarian underpinning ... and whose members are generally poorly educated, engineers have played a significant role as leaders of several groups: out of seven individuals for whom we were able to establish the degree, four were engineers...

"Still, despite some presence among extreme right-wing movements, regarding the strength of over-representation across different groups and countries, the case of the Islamic radical engineers stands out."

Engineers of Jihad

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