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Study links engineers and terrorism

Engineers are high achievers and often get sucked into radicalism after getting frustrated with their corrupt bureaucracies, according to the report.

world Updated: Feb 03, 2008 11:28 IST

A new British study has linked engineers and terrorism, saying such people are high achievers and often get sucked into radicalism out of frustration with their corrupt bureaucracies.

Diego Gambetta and Steffen Hertog of Oxford University collected data on 404 militants from 31 countries. Interestingly, engineering emerged as the most popular subject among the 178 militants known for having a principal academic focus.

A further break-up showed that 78 of them had pursued an engineering degree, 34 dealt with Islamic studies, 14 with medicine, and 12 with economics or business studies, says the Oxford University website.

The authors note that engineers tend to be high-achievers who rise by merit, which may make them more likely to be frustrated by their interactions with corrupt bureaucracies in the Middle East and North Africa and thus receptive to radical messages.

In their recently published sociology paper, titled "Engineers of Jihad", the authors link terrorism to the "engineer's mindset".

However, not everyone is convinced by the study. "I guess when I get profiled, I should pull out the study and tell the agents that I am a lazy Indian law student, you are safe with me," said Zainab, a law student from Newark.

The paper, however, says nothing about engineers in the non-Muslim world. It leaves out groups in South Asia, South East Asia, North Africa and Iraq.

"If there's one thing engineering teaches you, it's that all the models, predictions, hypothesis in the world are prone to failure. I'm sure Gambetta and Hertog know that," says Zainab.

The only mention of India in the paper is that two of three founders of the Lashker-e-Taiba group that carries out terrorist activities in India were from Lahore.

"The sociologists' definition of engineering includes architects (as distinct from civil engineers), all computer related studies, town planning, and 'other' (which includes 'rare subjects')," says Lewis Page of Cambridge in his blogpost.

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