'Most People,' Sageman says, 'think that terrorism comes from poverty, broken families, ignorance, immaturity, lack of family or occupational responsibilities, weak minds susceptible to brainwashing - the sociopath, the criminal, the religious fanatic.' In fact terrorists are among the 'best and brightest', from 'caring, middle class families', who usually came to the West to study, and 'who can speak four, five, six languages'. According to Sageman, 'Al-Qaeda's members are no the Palestinian fourteen year olds we see on the news, but join the jihad at the average age of 26. Three quarters are professionals or semi-professionals. They are engineers, architects and civil engineers, mostly scientists.' Few had grown up religious or had been to a religious school. 'At the time they joined the Jihad, the terrorists were not very religious. They only became religious once they joined the Jihad. - Pg 23
Terrorism, as a subject, is something that I've been obsessing over now for about 6 months - 1 year. I started with Sam Harris on a Joe Rogan podcast and went from there. I think what drew me in is the consensus amongst the public. That theology has nothing to do with this debate and it is primarily politics and grievances with western foreign policy that drive radicalisation. Criticism of Islam as an idea/belief system and intolerance of Muslims as a group of people have blurred together almost in the public eye to fall under the umbrella term Islamophobia. Here was Sam Harris just utterly speaking his mind on the topic so fearlessly in an atmosphere of judgement and shame if you don't tow along to the majority narrative, saying that religion is a bigger piece of the pie than most think. It's compelling when you crave discourse and alternative opinions. Here I am now reading Kenan Malik's so far enjoyable insights into the legacy of the reaction to Salman Rushdie's Satanic Verses. I picked the quote above because it comes from an adviser to the US government Marc Sageman who worked closely for a time with the Mujahideen.
It’s interesting because one of the big commentators on this subject is Noam Chomsky and I’ve heard him in the past espouse the idea that one of the roots of young men becoming radicalised is their frustrations and sense of hopelessness at a lack of opportunities. I think Sageman’s quote refutes this and I have to say that although I value Chomsky’s stance on US foreign policy I think he has a tendency to paint radicals as marginalised men when they probably aren’t in the scale he presents in many cases.
Weirdly right now I’m switching between The Fellowship of the Rings and from Fatwa to Jihad. Just keeping things interesting.