Friday, December 08, 2006

Radical Islam and poverty

Many people often assume that terrorism is caused in large part by factors like poverty. Michael Medved cites a new study that strongly challenges that belief. Medved writes:

"Dalia Mogahed, executive director of Muslim studies for the Gallup organization and John Esposito, a professor of religion at Georgetown University, recently collaborated on an analysis based on 9,000 interviews in nine Muslim countries. They classified their respondents into “moderates” (those who hope to co-exist with the West and Western values) and “radicals” (those who hope to spread uncompromising Islamic values throughout the world). They published their conclusions in “What Makes a Muslim Radical?” which appeared in the prestigious Foreign Policy magazine."

"Among their conclusions: “It’s no secret that many in the Muslim world suffer from crippling poverty and lack of education. But are radicals any poorer than their fellow Muslims? We found the opposite. There is indeed a key difference between radicals and moderates when it comes to income and education, but it is the radicals who earn more and who stay longer in school…."

"Whenever a suicide bomber completes a deadly mission, the act is often attributed to hopelessness – the inability to find a job, earn a living, or support a family. But the politically radical [are no] more 'hopeless' than the mainstream. More radicals expressed satisfaction with their financial situation and quality of life than their moderate counterparts, and a majority of them expected to be better off in the years to come."

"Perhaps those positive expectations related to their anticipation of getting up close and personal with 72 virgins, but even without considering obscene delusions of rewards in paradise, it’s obvious that the old paradigm of 'hopelessness and poverty breed violent fanaticism' doesn’t apply to the Muslim world."

This finding is crucial because some of our politicians insist on dealing with terrorists as if they are basically good people with a legitimate gripe and if we could just find out what that gripe is and negotiate with them to solve it, everything would be OK. This kind of thinking is not only naive, it may be deadly. Radical Islam is not fueled by poverty. It is fueled by those who take the Qur'an and example of Muhammad very seriously.


Comrade Anonymous said...

Dennis writes: "This finding is crucial because some of our politicians insist on dealing with terrorists as if they are basically good people with a legitimate gripe."

Please name some politicians who have said they believe that terrorists are "basically good people with a legitimate gripe."

john said...

I guess we can't be bothered with details.

Dennis said...

John and Comrade I have two questions for both of you. Answer my questions and I'll answer yours.

Do you believe that people in general are basically good? Do you believe that Jihadists are evil?

john said...

I'm not a politician, so I'm not sure what my opinion has to do with examples of your point, but I'll play along.

I suppose it depends on how you want to define "good". If you're speaking in a biblical sense ("all have sinned and fall short..."), then no. If you're asking if I think that generally, most people try to overcome their flaws (inherent selfishness, weaknesses, etc.) to do the right thing, help their neighbor, etc. etc., then a stronger argument could be made for that. (Of course, evidence to the contrary can be found every day, but I'm speaking in generalities here.)

And yes, jihadists are evil. I disagree with much of the right in how to address the terrorism problem (although I don’t claim to have all the answers either), but I do agree that they are evil we need to defeat them.

Kevin said...

I think we can all agree, regardless of the nitpicking, that economic aid to muslim nations is not going to solve the core terrorist problem if the ranks of the terrorists are being filled with middle class or better off individuals who have spent more time in school.

We can agree that poverty isn't the problem, right?

john said...

Frankly I'd prefer to see more than a few quotes selected by Michael Medved, from a report he didn't link to, before making up my mind about that. Also, I have copied and pasted below some generally good comments from someone who responded to Medved's post.

And we're still waiting with baited breath for examples of "politicians [who] insist on dealing with terrorists as if they are basically good people with a legitimate gripe." It's not nitpicking - it's a major claim that needs to be backed up when made.

The comments were: Half right, half wrong
Terrorists seem to be better educated than average, wealthier than average etc. I don't dispute that. Certainly bin Ladin fits that profile.

What I do dispute is that one can draw the conclusion that poverty and hopelessness are not the root cause just from that fact. Indeed, I think one has to see the actual terrorists as the same sort of psychopaths that have been behind many of the business disasters in this country (Enron, Worldcom, etc) but in countries where they derive their power not from business position but from being able to channel the hopelessness and dispair of the population in general.

If we look at people like Hugo Chavez, he is not a poor man and hasn't been in a long time if ever. However, he derives his support from the impoverished and this is why he is able to go on the radical tangent he does.

Psychopathic criminals occur everywhere, and the intelligent ones who stay in school tend to be powerful people. Whether they become terrorists or white-collar crooks depends on the political environment.