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Monday, October 27, 2014

Terrorism and ISIS

I've previously noted that the stereotype that many people have of Islamic terrorists is mistaken. They are often portrayed as religious fanatics from poverty stricken backgrounds with little or no education. That, however, is not the case. As Marc Sageman noted in his 2004 study ("Understanding Terrorist Networks"), most Islamic terrorists come from a middle-class backgrounds, attended secular grade schools, weren't terribly religious as children, and have attained a higher level of education than average person from their respective countries of origin. Other studies have turned up similar findings:
  • Alan Krueger of Princeton University found that there is little evidence that terrorists are poor or poorly educated
  • Claudia Berrebi of the RAND Corporation compared the characteristics of of suicide-bombers recruited by Hamas and Islamic Jihad from the West Bank and Gaza to the general Palestinian population and found that almost 60% of the suicide bombers had a high school education, which is a higher percentage than the general Palestinian population (approximately 25%) 
  • Berrebi also found that they were less than half as likely to come from an impoverished family as a typical man from the general population
  • The 2004 Pew Global Attitudes Project surveyed adults in Jordan, Morocco, Pakistan, and Turkey and discovered that there is no evidence that sympathy for terrorism is greater among economically deprived individuals -- instead, more schooling correlated with more sympathy
And now along comes ISIS. At this point it's unclear what the demographics of the group are, but as the video linked to below illustrates (just of kids playing in a park and enjoying living life under ISIS, nothing more), unsophisticated they are not. And if those of us in the West treat the group as a bunch of illiterate country-bumpkins, we could be in for a very long fight.

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