Intellectual Thoughts by Sanjay Panda: The educated terrorist

The educated terrorist

Doctors are supposed to heal, not kill. And architects are supposed to build, not destroy. But they have started doing just that. Mohammad Atta, the man who led the attack on the World Trade Towers, was an architect, and those who attacked the airport at Glasgow are doctors. This suggests that education is no longer a restraining influence on the use of violence. Indeed, amongst the many things that 9/11 demonstrated, the least commented upon or debated, relatively speaking, is the educated terrorist. Time was when it was only the semi-educated, brainwashed young man or woman who, wearing a belt of bombs, went and became a martyr. Not any longer. In recent years the world has seen several other instances of men and women whose education should tell them otherwise, indulging in acts of terrorism. It is instructive to examine the phenomenon.

In 2003, two Princeton economists, Alan Kruger and Jitka Maleckova, in an academic paper published in the Journal of Economic Perspectives, had said, with full support from cross-country data, that a lot of modern terrorism had nothing to do with poverty and income levels. In fact, their data showed that the suicide bombers of the Hezbollah were as likely to come from economically well-off families as from poor ones. There was also a 50 per cent likelihood of them being relatively well-educated. Similarly, members of the Israeli Jewish Underground, a terrorist group active in the late 1970s and early 1980s, were mostly well-educated and had jobs that were held in high esteem. Other studies of terrorist groups in different areas of the world, including the Red Army in Japan, the Irish Republican Army in Ireland and the People’s Liberation Army in Turkey, confirm this.

Two other economists, Charles Russell and Bowman Miller, who conducted one such study, say, “The vast majority of those individuals involved in terrorist activities as cadres or leaders, is quite well educated. In fact, approximately two-thirds of those identified terrorists are persons with some university training, university graduates or post-graduate students.” They also said that more than two-thirds of the arrested terrorists came from the middle or upper classes of their respective countries or areas. Yet another economist, Jessica Stern, who conducted a study in Pakistan, said that the madrasas are funded by many big industrialists. She also said that many of these schools trained their students to become part of extremist movements from a very early age. Thus, there seems to be little reason to believe that the alleviation of poverty and/or the education of more people will reduce the threat of terrorism. Why, they might increase it. It also seems to be the case that there is always a sub-set of the educated population that believes the end justifies the means, even if these are violent. This is not new. History is very revealing in this regard. There are scores of instances where highly-educated people have engaged in different degrees of violence and terrorism to achieve their aims. The best known was Vladimir Ilyich Lenin. A scholar in at least five languages, not including his mother-tongue, he had no qualms about using violence.

Closer home, India has had the likes of Charu Majumdar and Kanu Sanyal, the heroes of Naxalbari who enticed so many young men and women from even the stuffy Delhi University. Many members of ULFA are graduates; and so on. In the end, it would seem that some people, when they feel aggrieved at what they see as injustice, decide that violence is the answer. The problem is systemic and systematic injustice. When all else fails, violence becomes an attractive option. But is this option, really needed??? And who are to blamed fort his option ??। The indivisuals or society or who??.


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