Friday, July 17, 2015

Engineers and Jihadi

Mohammad Youssuf Abdulazeez, who killed a sailor and four Marines at a supply depot in Chattanooga, after opening fire on a recruiting office in a strip mall, was different from most other American jihadi. However, he was typical of the terrorists within the Arab/Islamic cultures of the old world: he was an engineer. 
  • “Engineers of Jihad” by Diego Gambetta and Steffen Hertog. Sociology Working Papers, Paper Number 2007-10, Department of Sociology, University of Oxford , Manor Road, Oxford OX1 3UQ available online here
  • “Engineers of Jihad” by Steffen Hertog, and Marc Sagemen; Christopher Boucek (Moderator), the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Tuesday, September 1, 2009, Transcript by Federal News Service Washington, D.C. here
"In early September 2007 Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad – one of the country’s most radical politicians with a PhD in transport engineering from Teheran’s Science and Technology University and the author several of scientific papers –delivered a speech to Iranian academics, which exudes those features to such an extent that we cannot resist quoting him at length:

In some discussions I told them [those inside Iran pressing for compromise over fears the United States could launch a military strike because of the nuclear standoff with the West]: “I am an engineer and I am examining the issue. They do not dare wage war against us and I base this on a double proof’” […] [First] I tell them: “I am an engineer and I am a master in calculation and tabulation. I draw up tables. For hours, I write out different hypotheses. I reject, I reason. I reason with planning and I make a conclusion. They cannot make problems for Iran.” [Second] “I believe in what God says. God says that those who walk in the path of righteousness will be victorious. What reason can you have for believing God will not keep this promise?” (AFP, 3 September 2007)." (Gambetta and Hertog, note 52, page 49.)
"Whether American, Canadian or Islamic, and whether due to selection or field socialisation, a disproportionate share of engineers seems to have a mindset that inclines them to entertain the quintessential right-wing features of “monism” – ‘why argue when there is one best solution’ – and of “simplism” – ‘if only people were rational, remedies would be simple’. "(Gambetta and Hertog page 50)

"The Carnegie survey reveals an even more surprising fact, hitherto unnoticed, that strengthens the suspicion that the engineers’ mindset plays a part in their proneness not only to radicalise to the right of the political spectrum but do so with a religious slant: engineers turn out to be by far the most religious group of all academics – 66.5 per cent, followed again by 61.7 in economics, 49.9 in sciences, 48.8 per cent of social scientists, 46.3 of doctors and 44.1 per cent of lawyers, the most sceptical of the lot. Engineers and economists are also those who oppose religion least (3.7% and 3.0%), and, together with the humanities, those who more strongly embrace it (Table 16)." (Gambetta and Hertog page 51)

"So what about the distribution of degrees? I think it’s interesting here: By far, the dominant group is people who have engaged in engineering studies – 78 out of 178 cases whose subject we know. And the runners-up are less surprisingly Islamic studies, and after that, medicine, business, economics, and sciences. And then a number of smaller subjects that are not listed and detailed here."

"So the engineers are more than twice as large as the second-largest group. And interestingly, there are only seven scientists in the sample. And the anecdote that was around was always that people with science and technical education are overrepresented among Islamists, and that doesn’t seem to be true. It’s, in fact, only people with technical education; with applied science education."

"So there’s an interesting presence of scientists among nonmilitant groups and a much stronger presence of engineers among the militant groups." 
(Hertog and Sagemen, pp. 4-5.) 

I note that the lack of engineers in left-wing groups is measurable. The exceptions are always interesting. In Palestine in the 1970s, for example, engineers were more prevalent than now in left-wing extremist groups. Significantly, however, those groups were Marxist, not Islamist. (see, Gambetta and Hertog, page 32)

“In the US extreme right, whose ideology often has a strong religious and millenarian underpinning (Handler 1990) and whose members are generally poorly educated, engineers have played a significant role as leaders of several groups: out of seven individuals for whom we were able to establish the degree, four were engineers. For instance, Dick Butler, the founder of Aryan Nation, was an aeronautical engineer and Wilhelm Schmitt, leader of the “Sheriff's Posse Comitatus” (a militant antigovernment group with an anti-tax agenda and extremist Christian views) before being sentenced to 26 years in prison was an engineer with Lockheed Martin …” (Gambetta and Hertog, page 30).


1 comment:

  1. Any policy recommendations based on your observations?