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diego gambetta and steffen hertog

Why are there so many Engineers among Islamic Radicals?

This article demonstrates that individuals with an engineering education are three to four times more frequent among violent Islamists worldwide than other degree holders. We then test a number of hypotheses to account for this phenomenon. We argue that a combination of two factors –engineers’ relative deprivation in the Islamic world and mindset – is the most plausible explanation. Keywords: Jihad; Islamism; Engineers; Political violence; Education; Relative deprivation.

Introduction1 S i n c e t h e e a r l y 1980s, numerous authors have mentioned in passing the link between science and engineering and radical Islam.2

1 We wish to thank Peter Bergen, Ronan Gunaratna, ThomasHegghammer, and Swati Pandey for sharing their data with us, and, for their help with various detailed pieces of information, Roberto Franzosi, Stephane Lacroix, Steven Lukes, Thomas Pierret, Josh Pollack, Maria Sobolewska, Valeria Pizzini-Gambetta, Larry Wright, and several Gulf2000 listserv members. We are very grateful to Becky Kahane, Jane Roberts, Neil Rudisill, Marina Tzvetkova and KarstenWekel for their invaluable research assistance, and to Ken MacDonald for his statistical advice. Finally, we are indebted to Michael Biggs, Annalisa Cristini, Jon Elster, Nils Petter Gleditsch, Elisabeth Ivarsflaten,

Ekaterina Hertog, Elisabeth Longuenesse, Rick Ludkin, Tiziana Nazio, John Owen, Andrea Patacconi, Roger Petersen, Valeria Pizzini-Gambetta, Tom Snijders, Anna Zimdars, andparticipants in the CSCW Workshop on The Role of First Actors in civil war, held at PRIO, Oslo, on 17-18 August 2006, as well as participants at the Nuffield College Sociology Seminar and the Princeton Department for Near Eastern Studies’ seminar series, for comments on earlier drafts. 2 Bergen and Pandey 2006; Hoffman 1995; Huntington 1996, p. 112; Ibrahim 1980; Roy 1990; Sageman 2004, p. 76; Schulze 1990,p. 22; Wickham 2002, p. 1; Wright 2006, p. 301.

Diego Gambetta, Nuffield College, University of Oxford [diego.gambetta@nuffield.] and Steffen Hertog, Chaire Moyen Orient-Mditerrane, Sciences Po, Paris e e [].
Arch.europ.sociol., L, 2 (2009), pp. 1–30—0003-9756/09/0000-900$07.50per art + $0.10 per pageÓ2009 A.E.S.

diego gambetta and steffen hertog Some havespeculated about what might explain it.3 No one, however, has attempted to find a systematic confirmation of the phenomenon, let alone an empirically grounded explanation. Scholars have found evidence of a positive correlation between level of education and militancy both among Islamic and left-wing radicals.4 Almost nothing is known, however, about the link between different types of education andradicalization generally. Yet, there are good grounds, and some evidence that we discuss below, to expect that certain political and ideological orientations could be either promoted or selected by the discipline one chooses to study. Much of the literature on extremism claims that there is no clear ‘‘terrorist profile’’: radical Islamists have few individual traits in common (Nesser 2004; Sageman 2004; onprofiling failures cf. Capoccia, forthcoming). Yet, it appears improbable that anyone can become radicalized if only the circumstances are right. Individual choices based on cognitive and personality traits are likely to play a role at least at the point when broader ideological networks get pared down and radicalized. Such traits tend to be very hard to observe when it comes to militants,certainly on a statistically relevant scale. The choice of education is one of the few micro-level features on which we have reasonably reliable data, which could betray underlying individual traits. This is the rationale of the present article. Its first part will examine a wide range of evidence to establish the size of the engineers’ presence among Islamic radicals, both in the Muslim and in the...
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