Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Are You An Engineer? Are You A Potential Terrorist?

Of all the biographical details that have emerged about the Nigerian man who allegedly tried to blow up a Northwest Airlines jet on Christmas, perhaps the least surprising -- at least to those who study these things -- is what he studied in college...the propensity toward engineering studies is an aspect of the terrorist profile that has drawn increased scrutiny of late from scholars, who have been advancing theories about the high correlation between the two.

In a study published this year, European sociologists Diego Gambetta and Steffen Hertog..."The bottom line is that while the probability of a Muslim engineer becoming a violent Islamist is minuscule, it is still between three and four times that for other graduates," Gambetta wrote in an article in the New Scientist that summarized the pair's findings, which were published in August in the European Journal of Sociology.

So what makes engineers more likely to become terrorists? The most obvious theory is their technical expertise; al-Qaida and other terror groups need to recruit people who can make bombs. But Gambetta and Hertog...conclude that the phenomenon is explained by a combination of mindset and professional circumstance. Citing studies finding that engineers as a group are more politically conservative than other professions, Gambetta and Hertog write that engineers by nature are more likely to be drawn to the kind of rigid, hierarchical worldviews that radical Islam provides: Their governing mentality "inclines them to take more extreme conservative and religious positions everywhere."...


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