Friday, February 15, 2008

Radical Engineers

Just ran into this article in the January issue of Foreign Policy:

"Osama bin Laden studied engineering. So did lead 9/11 hijacker Mohammed Atta, 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and Ramzi Yousef, the architect of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Exceptions to the rule? Hardly. Most highprofile Islamist terrorists are, in fact, highly educated. And according to new research at Oxford University by sociologists Diego Gambetta and Steffen Hertog, most of them may be engineers.

After compiling educational biographies for nearly 300 known members of violent Islamist groups from 30 countries, Gambetta and Hertog found that the vast majority—69 percent—had attended college. Of those with clear areas of study, nearly half had gone into engineering. Across the Middle East and Southeast Asia, the share of engineers in violent Islamist groups was found to be at least nine times greater than what one might expect, given their proportion of the working male population.

It may be tempting to assume that people with engineering backgrounds are more likely to be recruited for their technical (read: bombmaking) skills. Gambetta and Hertog dismiss this claim. Instead, they argue radicalized engineers are vastly overrepresented in terrorist ranks thanks to thwarted professional ambitions and, most controversially, a unique mindset ripe for extremism."

[Emphasis mine.]

So next time your laptop is confiscated at the airport and held for a few months, you'd know why.


Ilyak said...

I can't understand how an engineer can ally with forces which defy education, science and unconstrained thought.

Maybe that's just me?

Dzembu Gaijin said...

:-) Islamic education for engineers is not exactly same one as degree in English Literature from Oxford :-)