Monday, April 04, 2005

Root Causes?

One of the great canards of the hate-America left is that Islamic terrorists are motivated by poverty, lack of education and oppression, mostly caused, of course, by the policies of the evil US in particular and the West in general. Once again, this silly notion has been shot down, this time by a new study by Dr Marc Sagemon of the University of Pennsylvania.

His analysis of 400 Al Qaeda members shows that the typical recruit is much more affluent, much better educated, much more likely to have studied at secular and/or Western institutions, and much more likely to be employed in a professional or otherwise skilled position than the general population. Many of them (including, famously, Osama bin Laden) turn their backs on lives of luxury in order to go chase the windmills of the West. In short, the exact opposite of the cliché is true.

Specifically, almost 1/5 of the sample were upper class and almost 3/4 were middle class or above. Well over 80% were educated at least at the high school level, and more than 70% had at least some college education. More than 90% had a secular education. 3/4 were professionally employed or in otherwise skilled positions. Almost 3/4 were married and most of those had children. Only 1% had any emotional or mental issues (ignoring the whole jihad thing for a moment). Most come from a small number of wealthy Arab countries, or from immigrant communities in the West or Southeast Asia. Very few came from poor countries like Afghanistan. Around 70% joined the jihad while away from their native country. They tended to be, in Sagemon’s words, the “elite of their country” sent abroad to study in superior schools. How much the dominant anti-American worldview of the Western academy contributed is anybody’s guess, but you can bet it was of some significance.

Not that any of this will keep the elite company line from continuing to be fed to us by the usual suspects, but it is nice to have some recent and very much concrete data to throw back in their faces.

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