Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Monday, June 20, 2021

Part of the War on Terror PR front assumes that madrassas in the Middle East are terrorist factories. The theory is that these schools attract poor and disenfranchised youths, miseducates them, and breeds jihads masterminds.

Turns out it ain’t so. While they’re so highly visible to be assumed to be at the center of the Islamist movement, madrassas enroll far fewer students than is generally believed. So the sheer manpower isn’t coming from that direction.

What’s more, there’s a far more obvious source for Islamic fundamentalist terror leadership:

We examined the educational backgrounds of 75 terrorists behind some of the most significant recent terrorist attacks against Westerners. We found that a majority of them are college-educated, often in technical subjects like engineering. In the four attacks for which the most complete information about the perpetrators’ educational levels is available - the World Trade Center bombing in 1993, the attacks on the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, the 9/11 attacks, and the Bali bombings in 2002 - 53 percent of the terrorists had either attended college or had received a college degree. As a point of reference, only 52 percent of Americans have been to college. The terrorists in our study thus appear, on average, to be as well educated as many Americans.

The 1993 World Trade Center attack involved 12 men, all of whom had a college education. The 9/11 pilots, as well as the secondary planners identified by the 9/11 commission, all attended Western universities, a prestigious and elite endeavor for anyone from the Middle East. Indeed, the lead 9/11 pilot, Mohamed Atta, had a degree from a German university in, of all things, urban preservation, while the operational planner of 9/11, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, studied engineering in North Carolina. We also found that two-thirds of the 25 hijackers and planners involved in 9/11 had attended college.

Of the 75 terrorists we investigated, only nine had attended madrassas, and all of those played a role in one attack - the Bali bombing. Even in this instance, however, five college-educated “masterminds” - including two university lecturers - helped to shape the Bali plot.

So, rather than rising from the slums, the Islamist movement seems to be coming from the Muslim middle- and upper-class, an educated group that — holding to conventional wisdom in the West — should have the least motivation to forment revolution.

This shouldn’t be surprising, though, either specifically regarding the Muslim world nor on a historical level. Throughout the Middle East, the more affluent segments of society are the most conspicuous promoters of anti-Western sentiment. Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Iran are the notable examples of this dynamic. And despite the rhetoric and mythologizing, revolutionary impulses and leadership pretty much always come from the upper strata of society — not the other half. Think about revolutionary leaders through history: John and Samuel Adams, Vladimir Lenin, Ho Chi Mihn, Mohandas Ghandi… all came from comfortable (at least) backgrounds. The revolution is indeed televised, and by those who can afford the big-screen TVs.

What this means is that the traditional “soft” approach in U.S. nation-building — providing education and means to elevate standards of living — may need to be seriously revised. I’m not sure just how, since it seems that enlightenment leads to greater discontent. Perhaps a more effective smokescreen on the global poli-economic structure…

(Posted ahead of time, during my travel to New York)

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 06/20/2005 06:17pm
Category: Political
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I realize it’s not officially summer until the Summer Solstice, tomorrow.

Still, that’s no excuse for the temperature dropping to the 50s a couple of nights ago, here in New York’s Hudson Valley! I was stunned. And chilly. June means summer, period. No way the thermometer should dip below 70, even in New York.

I guess the locals are loving it, though. They just went through an unusually severe heatwave last week, when it was like 90 every day. I was actually expecting more of that during my visit; no dice.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 06/20/2005 09:59am
Category: New Yorkin', Weather
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