Umar Mutallab and Nidal Hassan, the underwear bomber and Ft. Hood shooter, respectively, are two more recent, highly visible affirmations of former CIA officer Marc Sageman’s finding that rather than coming from the dregs of society, international terrorists tend to be more educated and affluent than is most of the population in the countries they come from:
Most people think that terrorism comes from poverty, broken families, ignorance, immaturity, lack of family or occupational responsibilities, weak minds susceptible to brainwashing – the sociopath, the criminals, the religious fanatic, or, in this country, some believe they’re just plain evil.
Taking these perceived root causes in turn, three quarters of my sample came from the upper or middle class. The vast majority—90 percent—came from caring, intact families. Sixty-three percent had gone to college, as compared with the 5-6 percent that’s usual for the third world. These are the best and brightest of their societies in many ways.
Mutallab’s father is a former bank executive and one of the richest men in Africa (though his father is not a villain–he warned the CIA that his son had cut off communication with him and was a potential threat). Mutallab was in college on his dad’s dime. Hassan is a second-generation Palestinian who grew up in a Virginian middle class household where his parents owned a restaurant. These guys are not mired in destitute poverty, adopting ‘extremist’ views due to a lack of prospects for the future. Their comfortable lives are not exceptions to the rule–they are the rule.
Sageman also found that most (73%) were married, although Randall Parker and Dennis Mangan, among others, showcase compelling arguments that sexual frustration may play some role as well:
In Israel we have much experience with Arab suicide bombers and violent street mobs. One of the most effective remedies to the Intifada suicide attacks was to limit work permits in Israel to Palestinians over 40 and married. (That was improved upon by building a fence around Israel, which completely stopped that phenomenon). We cannot stop them coming to pray in the Jerusalem Al Aqsa Mosque, and every Friday prayer used to end in bloody confrontations with the police.
So now, when the Arab street gets excited, Israel allows the entrance of only people over 40 and married. About 50% of the Palestinian girls are married by the age of 18, while men usually have to build their house to marry, which is around 30. Marriage is generally an exchange = you have to supply your sister in esxchange for a bride. That’s why “honour killings” are so common – if the sister does not agree, she “brings shame on the family” and the brother cannot marry. Whores are killed by the “morality police”. The consequence is that sexual perversion (goats?) and murderous acts of running amok are quite common in the Arab society, but who cares? They are never reported not here nor in the USA which is OK. I am sure if Major Hassan had been married he would have reacted with less violence.
An assessment similar to the the one done by Sageman based on more recent terrorist profiles would surely be informative.
Parenthetically, the contemporary stigma surrounding men who are sexually frustrated is such that serious discourse on the subject rarely takes place. It is almost inconceivable in contemporary Western society that a well-off, healthy guy with a moderately prestigious occupation whose agoraphobic social awkwardness has left him sexually frustrated could be seen as more deserving of sympathetic pity than a chronically unemployed, uneducated cad who’s been in and out of jail. The former is a loser deserving of ridicule while the latter is to be coddled and cared about, despite the fact that the burgher who can’t get laid does a lot more good for society than the prolish thug who can’t hold a job does. Yet for most people sexual fulfillment is one of the three most important elements (health and wealth being the other two) necessary for realizing contented happiness.