ONE IN FOUR JIHADIS ARE STEMM STUDENTS – Technical professions and terrorism seem to historically go hand in hand, and now we have another confirmation:
Prominent jihadis are often well educated. Forty-six per cent of our sample went to university. Of these, 57 per cent graduated with STEMM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine) degrees. This was double the number of jihadis taking Islamic studies.
This is one of the conclusions of a fascinating new study from the Centre on Religion and Geopolitics, “Milestones to Militancy”, which analysed 100 elite jihadis from 41 countries and 49 different groups, active throughout the Middle East and Africa. It would be interesting to see more extensive studies, also focusing on more rank and file members (though it’s arguably much more difficult to get detailed personal information on them) as well as the Western terrorists, whether migrants or second-generation citizens. I suspect the results might be a bit different, reflecting different profiles of leaders and followers. The CRG study reminds us yet again what we have known from other, non-Islamist, terrorist and revolutionary groups, namely that their leaders are far from the downtrodden and “the wretched of the Earth” they claim to represent.
Two other interesting findings:
Half of jihadis came from non-violent Islamist movements. Fifty-one per cent of the jihadis profiled had non-violent Islamist links before joining violent movements. One in four had links to the Muslim Brotherhood or affiliated organisations.
Twenty-five per cent of jihadis have links to government. A quarter of our sample had previously worked for the state or security services, or had immediate family members in government service. This demonstrates that it is not just peripheral figures or those ostracised by the state who are vulnerable to extremism.