By Junko Yoshida
MANHASSET, N.Y. " Is there a thread that ties engineers to Islamic
There certainly is, according to Diego Gambetta and Steffen Hertog at
Oxford University, who recently published a paper titled, "Engineers of
Jihad." The authors call the link to terrorism "the engineer's mindset."
The sociology paper published last November, which has been making
rounds over the Internet and was recently picked up by The Atlantic ,
uses illustrative statistics and qualitative data to conclude that there
is a strong relationship between an engineering background and
involvement in a variety of Islamic terrorist groups. The authors have
found that graduates in subjects such as science, engineering, and
medicine are strongly overrepresented among Islamist movements in the
Muslim world. The authors also note that engineers, alone, are strongly
over-represented among graduates who gravitate to violent groups.
However, contrary to popular speculation, it's not technical skills that
make engineers attractive recruits to radical groups. Rather, the
authors pose the hypothesis that "engineers have a 'mindset' that makes
them a particularly good match for Islamism," which becomes explosive
when fused by the repression and vigorous radicalization triggered by
the social conditions they endured in Islamic countries.
But what is the engineer's mindset?
The authors call it a mindset that inclines them to take more extreme
conservative and religious positions.
A past survey in the United States has already shown that the proportion
of engineers who declare themselves to be on the right of the political
spectrum is greater than any other disciplinary groups--such as
economists, doctors, scientists, and those in the humanities and social
The authors note that the mindset is universal.
Whether American, Canadian or Islamic, they pointed out that a
disproportionate share of engineers seem to have a mindset that makes
them open to the quintessential right-wing features of "monism" (why
argue where there is one best solution) and by "simplism" (if only
people were rational, remedies would be simple).
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