If one pays attention to the pattern of IS recruitment from India, they would realise a significant number of IS aspirants from India have engineering background. In less than 18 months, 29 people who are either engineers or engineering students from Telangana state alone have been detained in India before they left the country to join the terrorist organisation. Over 300 IS aspirants from India have been detained so far. A report by two Italian researchers suggests that there could be close links between education, the nature of education and the mindsets of those who become part of violent extremist groups.
A report in The Washington Post details the findings of two researchers with an Italian university who studied the educational backgrounds of members of different extremist groups both religious and left-wing.
The study by Diego Gambetta, sociologist at the European University Institute in Italy, and Steffen Hertog, an associate professor, is being published in a book by Princeton University Press.
Among terror groups which claim allegiance to Islam, they found that engineers are more prone to joining up. With groups with other ideologies, the opposite was true – degrees other than engineering were predominant.
The Washington Post reported:
“More than twice as many members of violent Islamist organizations have engineering degrees as have degrees in Islamic studies. Nearly half of those terrorists who had degrees had degrees in engineering. Even if you make extremely generous assumptions, nine times as many terrorists were engineers as you would expect by chance. They find a similar pattern among Islamist terrorists who grew up in the West – fewer of these terrorists had college degrees, but even more of those who had degrees were engineers.”
Being tech-savvy, though, had little to do with why these individuals were attracted to such groups.
Gambetta and Hertog rule out social networks and technology skills for this finding. They found that Islamic terror groups do not actually need too many people who are tech-savvy. Also, they that one engineer did not recruit more engineers through social contacts.
What they found however, was that a combination of conservative and religious attitudes in colleges and a lack of opportunity were common among engineers in terror groups.
“Survey data indicates that engineering faculty at universities are far more likely to be conservative than people with other degrees, and far more likely to be religious. They are seven times as likely to be both religious and conservative as social scientists.”
Engineers often have a bent of mind that looks for clear-cut solutions to problems of modernity, and this coincides with the one-size-fits-all type of answer that radical groups provide.
The Post adds:
“Gambetta and Hertog suggest that this mindset combines with frustrated expectations in many Middle Eastern and North African countries, and among many migrant populations, where people with engineering backgrounds have difficulty in realizing their ambitions for good and socially valued jobs.”