According to a recent article by Richard Bernstein, though many suicide bombers worldwide are poor and disenfranchised, most of the religious extremists who have engaged in acts of violent terrorism against the U.S. in the last decade have been intellectuals from elite backgrounds. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian Muslim accused of attempting to bomb a transatlantic flight on Christmas day, attended reputable British schools and came from an upper crust family. Similarly, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan (pictured at left), the U.S. Army psychiatrist accused of killing 13 fellow soldiers at Fort Hood, Texas, last autumn, was an educated upper-middle-class Muslim with well-off parents. The list goes on and on. Osama bin Laden and his chief deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, as well as Mohammed Atta and Ziad Jarrah, the operational leaders of the September 11, 2001, attacks, were all intellectuals who came from distinguished or wealthy families.
“That so many jihadist combatants are from middle-class backgrounds,” Bernstein notes, “doesn’t mean that the grinding poverty of many Islamic countries — and its contrast with the badly distributed wealth of some of those same societies — plays no role in fueling Muslim anger and desperation. Clearly it does…. [But these] men seem to illustrate the observation made by historians of violent political extremists … that they tend more often to be intellectuals with a grievance, a concept, and a thirst for power than the desperate and wretched of the earth on whose behalf they usually claim to have acted.” To read more, click here, here, and here.
Indonesia’s New Muslim Intellectuals
By Carool Kersten , King’s College London
(Vol. 4, December 2009)
Introduction to Political Islam
By Ana Belén Soage , University of Granada
(Vol. 4, September 2009)