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Thread: Engineers of Jihad

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    Default Engineers of Jihad

    Abstract. We find that graduates from subjects such as science, engineering,
    and medicine are strongly overrepresented among Islamist movements in the
    Muslim world, though not among the extremist Islamic groups which have
    emerged in Western countries more recently. We also find that engineers alone
    are strongly over-represented among graduates in violent groups in both
    realms. This is all the more puzzling for engineers are virtually absent from
    left-wing violent extremists and only present rather than over-represented
    among right-wing extremists. We consider four hypotheses that could explain
    this pattern. Is the engineers’ prominence among violent Islamists an accident
    of history amplified through network links, or do their technical skills make
    them attractive recruits? Do engineers have a ‘mindset’ that makes them a
    particularly good match for Islamism, or is their vigorous radicalization
    explained by the social conditions they endured in Islamic countries? We
    argue that the interaction between the last two causes is the most plausible
    explanation of our findings, casting a new light on the sources of Islamic
    extremism and grounding macro theories of radicalization in a micro-level
    perspective.

    http://www.nuff.ox.ac.uk/users/gambe...of%20Jihad.pdf

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    For what it's worth, every interpreter or upper-middle class individual or former/current government official whom I encountered, if they had a college degree, had one in science, engineering, or medicine. If this is representative of the population at large, then it does not seem a stretch that a subset of that population will share some characteristics.

    Noticing this trend early on, I asked an interpreter why it is that engineering was such a common degree. He offered two explanations. First, it is useful. You can get employment in many different areas of government - both military and general bureaucrat. Second, it is more familiar. Iraqis generally do their own electrical work, build their own homes, install their own plumbing. An education in engineering seems familiar and a logical extension of this existing knowledge.

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    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    The title "engineer" holds more weight culturally in the Middle East than does "Doctor" as in medical doctor. I fould that to be true across the region from Egypt tp Lebanon and south into Sudan. It was especially true in Egypt as part of the "Pyramid Complex". So in looking at the number of engineers invloved in extremism it is likley that you would find a larger if not the largest number of particpants to hold some sort of engineer background. That does not establish a causal relationship.

    Best

    Tom

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    Council Member kehenry1's Avatar
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    Default Educated in Islam

    One of the factors in why so many Islamists have a higher education, to go along with how "engineers" are viewed and their possible desirability for recruiting, in countries like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, religious education is mandatory in order to complete the curriculum and receive a diploma.

    These are not "electives" where people "self select" for this education. It is a requirement, much as math and science are. I have not studied the Egyptian universities, yet, but I do wonder if religious indoctrination is either mandated or considered necessary through peer pressure.

    Since engineering is almost a quarter of all students in these universities, it stands to reason that engineers would be the most representative of the educated Islamists.
    Kat-Missouri

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    Default Engineering Brotherhood

    The distinguished Islamic scholar Khalid Duran notes of this phenomenon in the the engieering profession that there is a saying in Egypt, "The Muslim Brotherhood is really the Engineering Brotherhood." Duran states that the phenomenon is the result of engineers, being schooled in the hard sciences, having been trained to not exercise their fantasy or imagination. So they graviate toward less than poetic forms of religious belief--Islamic fundamentalism. I could go on at length about all the radicalized engineers at my university. We have had multiple arrests in Tampa Bay, and the majority of the indicted and/or convicted have been either professors or students of engineering.

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    Council Member SteveMetz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wondertk View Post
    The distinguished Islamic scholar Khalid Duran notes of this phenomenon in the the engieering profession that there is a saying in Egypt, "The Muslim Brotherhood is really the Engineering Brotherhood." Duran states that the phenomenon is the result of engineers, being schooled in the hard sciences, having been trained to not exercise their fantasy or imagination. So they graviate toward less than poetic forms of religious belief--Islamic fundamentalism. I could go on at length about all the radicalized engineers at my university. We have had multiple arrests in Tampa Bay, and the majority of the indicted and/or convicted have been either professors or students of engineering.
    My theory is just that engineers as a rule are crazy. That's what I keep telling my younger brother who are one.

    In the Algerian insurgency, pharmacists were over represented. I do think there is something about being torn between the culture of science and the culture of religion that causes personal turmoil which, for a tiny portion of people, manifests itself in violence. The violent are punishing the world for their own internal turmoil.

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    We've long known that blocked upward mobility is a major source of jihadist radicalization, a point that emerged from Sadd Eddin Ibrahim's seminal studies of Egyptian militants in the 1980s. In particular, he found that graduates from rural lower-middle class origins, who had benefited from the expansion of urban post-secondary education opportunities but who were unable to find appropriate job openings and were consequently underemployed (in status and income terms), were especially likely to join Egyptian jihadist groups.

    Gambetta and Hertog also point to relative deprivation as an important cause. They might have teased out a bit more here, however, by looking at data on the employment of engineering graduates, the gap between engineers graduated and engineers working as such in the labour force, etc.

    They may also be on to something in terms of the impact of disciplinary self-selection and psychological and professional attributes. There is experimental research showing, for example, that when economists play the ultimatum game, they tend to utility maximize (maximize their profits), whereas non-economists put far more emphasis on "fairness" in the division of resources. I've always loved that finding, since it seems to suggest that the only people who behave the way that economists predict are other economists

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    Quote Originally Posted by SteveMetz View Post
    In the Algerian insurgency, pharmacists were over represented. I do think there is something about being torn between the culture of science and the culture of religion that causes personal turmoil which, for a tiny portion of people, manifests itself in violence. The violent are punishing the world for their own internal turmoil.
    Practical linkage, maybe I'm insane: This makes Campus Ministry types an actual tool in the fight against terrorism, then - you really would seem to need clergy/religious in universities that could check students from drifting off in such directions, to act as spiritual directors.

    ...Then again, the notion of Campus Ministry as I and probably most people are familiar with it (the friendly campus priest/minister/rabbi/clergytype who's part traditional religious leader, part counselor, part youth group leader) is a distinctly American phenomenon, huh?

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    Council Member marct's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Penta View Post
    Practical linkage, maybe I'm insane: This makes Campus Ministry types an actual tool in the fight against terrorism, then - you really would seem to need clergy/religious in universities that could check students from drifting off in such directions, to act as spiritual directors.
    Hmmm, that makes so many assumptions, I'm not sure I even want to touch it !

    I think the main "problem" I have with this is the phrase "spiritual director". There's a real assumption here that there actually is a spiritual direction that this person can lead people in and, perhaps most importantly, that anyone wants to go towards. I haven't looked at the stats for a couple of years, but I would guess that they probably haven't changed much in the past 5 or so, which means that probably less than 40% of Canadians believe in any form of spiritual direction coming out of established religions.

    Quote Originally Posted by Penta View Post
    ...Then again, the notion of Campus Ministry as I and probably most people are familiar with it (the friendly campus priest/minister/rabbi/clergytype who's part traditional religious leader, part counselor, part youth group leader) is a distinctly American phenomenon, huh?
    Let's see, at Carleton (Ottawa, Canada), we have an Anglican (Episcopalian to you south of the border types ), an RC priest, an Imam, a Rabbi, a couple of Wiccan priestesses and various and assorted others. They really only act as "spiritual directors" to their own groups, although the cookies are usually pretty good in the Chaplaincy .

    Marc
    Sic Bisquitus Disintegrat...
    Marc W.D. Tyrrell, Ph.D.
    Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies,
    Senior Research Fellow,
    The Canadian Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies, NPSIA
    Carleton University
    http://marctyrrell.com/

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    Perhaps there is also the random chance factor. Marc Sageman wrote that most terrorists are recruited through pre-existing personal contacts. Perhaps engineers are overrepresented because, by random chance, a few earlybirds were engineers, and they simply recruited their friends?

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    Quote Originally Posted by SteveMetz View Post
    In the Algerian insurgency, pharmacists were over represented. I do think there is something about being torn between the culture of science and the culture of religion that causes personal turmoil which, for a tiny portion of people, manifests itself in violence. The violent are punishing the world for their own internal turmoil.
    These students enroll in curricula that are practical, profitable, and offer upward mobility. These engineering / pharmacy students are most likely from the professional class, as the children of the ruling class are studying finance and law at elite institutions. I understand that these students selected a course of study, or major, that would be beneficial to their growing nation (demographics, anyone?).

    These students would most likely never tell their paternal sponsors that they had dropped civil engineering for art history; and “joined a fraternity”.

    I predict that many of the professionally educated radicals listed in the study are second sons. The first son (professional class assumption) is learning and participating in the profession of the father. The second son is sent off to university to start a complimentary profession and represent the family well. The toxic emotional state of the “El Segundo”, away from his family at the university, is ripe for recruitment into a radical group (similar result pg 62-63) (cognitive dissonance pg 68). The profession was selected or dictated by paternal sponsors long before the recruitment into the group. The conclusion of the study does acknowledge a full biography on each radical could offer better solutions.

    All of my terms are broad; however, I simply wanted to place the decisions of profession and group affiliation in sequence.

    It is odd that the study does not offer the sequence as an argument (moves right past it on page 58). Also, the spread of the professional class in regards to science vs. non science tracks in western and ME societies does not seem well defined or separated. The exact contents of the engineering curricula may need to be examined as well; compared to the US colleges, an MA in Math is not comparable professionally to a BS Elec Engr. Also, as the authors loosely compare western and ME society, they fail to mention the simple fact that in western society the supermajority of engineers are men. This population fact should skew the comparisons amongst various professional groups and the western / ME comparisons.


    Although my experience is at an American university, the birth year group is the same as that listed in the study. The year group for my major (Aero Engr, U of AZ) had 13 students; 6 Americans and 7 Kuwaitis. The Kuwaiti students lived together, and lived comfortably. The greater engineering college had many clusters of students on visas from ME countries. Quite simply, the nation of origin sponsored the education of native talent to build their respective countries infrastructure. This developing expertise would also allow for the smart contracting of western efforts, as opposed to being taken to the cleaners on infrastructure and natural resources projects. These students were serious, driven, and had little interest in the “shopping mall experience” that is the American university at the turn of the century. And, we were just one block away from the infamous Tucson mosque.

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Seeking out the engineers

    Hat tip to: http://www.schneier.com/blog/

    From the UK a starkly contrasting editorial: http://www.newscientist.com/article/...of-terror.html and the article itself, which cover other issues e.g. data mining: http://www.newscientist.com/article/...he-making.html

    A good summary of the issues in profiling potential terrorists IMHO, although the stats are not readily followed.

    One comment on the blogsite I liked: I expect that there is something which makes prospective terrorists become engineers, rather than something which makes engineers become terrorists.

    davidbfpo
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 06-26-2009 at 11:30 AM. Reason: Adding links

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    Default Troublemaker/contributing member of society ratio...

    The original paper from the Oxford Sociology Department, Paper Number 2007-10 , by Diego Gambetta and Steffon Hertog, Engineers of Jihad

    David,

    Thanks for the link, while it's certainly something to consider, my biased take on things would be to try and run the ratio of troublemakers to those who have who have been of help to society.

    The Oxford study identified 78 individuals who studied 'engineering' (their definition is a bit loose) out of a group of 178 members of 'violent islamist groups' whose educational efforts (completed or not) could be identified. US Department of Labor says that in 2006 there were 1.5 million employed engineers in the US alone. In the UK 800,000 individuals are counted as employed engineers. I would further add that the drop out rates in engineering school are not pretty...

    As I ponder the merits of this particular study I will continue to enjoy my chilled beverage made with clean water fresh from my electrically powered refrigerator while sheltered inside my structurally sound residence while....



    Best,

    Steve
    Last edited by Surferbeetle; 06-29-2009 at 01:33 AM. Reason: chased some numbers...
    Sapere Aude

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Profiling potential terrorists

    Assembling a profile continues to elude academics and practioners. There are some useful hints scattered around in the literature, which is what I would class the 'engineers' articles.

    What I did find interesting was the description of a prolonged German data mining investigation to identify potential terrorists - which failed. A marked contrast to hunting down the Baader-Meinhof gang in Hamburg in the 1970's, when a data search identified utilities being paid for in cash and swiftly then their hideout(s).

    After London and Glasgow attacks by in the 'Doctors Plot' any profile had to consider medical doctors.

    davidbfpo

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    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
    • Assembling a profile continues to elude academics and practioners.
    • After London and Glasgow attacks by in the 'Doctors Plot' any profile had to consider medical doctors.
    The assumption that you can assemble a profile would have to reside in the idea that profiles were indicative or political/religious beliefs. How do you find out if someone is a secret communist? Profiles are more a search tool, than indicative of any form of prediction. Profiles cannot tell you who is a terrorist and who is not. Profiles just fine tune the search.

    To quote a training manual I saw once, "A profile without a subject is like key without a door."
    Infinity Journal "I don't care if this works in practice. I want to see it work in theory!"

    - The job of the British Army out here is to kill or capture Communist Terrorists in Malaya.
    - If we can double the ratio of kills per contact, we will soon put an end to the shooting in Malaya.
    Sir Gerald Templer, foreword to the "Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya," 1958 Edition

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    Council Member slapout9's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
    How do you find out if someone is a secret communist? Profiles are more a search tool, than indicative of any form of prediction. Profiles cannot tell you who is a terrorist and who is not. Profiles just fine tune the search.

    To quote a training manual I saw once, "A profile without a subject is like key without a door."

    That is exactly what they are, a search tool. It was designed to be used after a crime(s)to find the person who did it when you had little or nothing else to go on but the suspects behavior.

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Immunising the Mind – Education and Extremism

    A new UK report on this vexed issue, with a Middle East focus. It starts with:
    The world continues to be blighted by extremist ideologies. It is commonly argued that one possible solution is more educational opportunity. But the picture may be more complicated. A large number of violent extremists are graduates.

    A disproportionate number hold degrees in engineering and other technical subjects. Martin Rose, a Visiting Fellow at the Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Centre of Islamic Studies at the University of Cambridge, and British Council consultant on the Middle East has written a new working paper examining existing research on the issue in the region. Intended to provoke discussion, the paper suggests there may be links between the teaching of certain subjects and the closed mind-set of extremists who study them. The paper arguably demonstrates that changing the way some subjects are taught and encouraging questioning and alternative viewpoints, along with better education in the humanities and social sciences, could help immunise minds against extremism. If this argument is true it may have some implications for education policy.
    Link:https://www.britishcouncil.org/organ...-and-extremism
    davidbfpo

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    I had to laugh at this one, now the problem is no longer poverty and lack of education as our State Department narrative likes to promote, but the way science and technology is taught in our schools. If that is true, then we apparently have huge radical hotbeds at Google, Microsoft, 3M, Apple, etc.

    The issue isn't poor governance, it isn't poverty, it isn't the way science and technology is taught, it is ideology and ones' psychological make up. Apparently that is too uncomfortable for us to accept?

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Does Engineering Education Breed Terrorists?

    Thread re-opened after this article from March 2016 popped up. It reflects the academic research and furore over the theme:http://www.chronicle.com/article/Does-Engineering-Education/235800?

    A good read and I did not check the comments.
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 01-01-2017 at 07:04 PM. Reason: 16,405v
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