Rebels Without a Clue

A recent report highlighted in yesterday’s Sunday Times reminds us of Al Qaeda’s class composition.

The common stereotype is that terrorism is a product of poor, desperate, naive, single young men from Third World countries.

But that’s not what the study found:

An analysis of 500 members of Osama Bin Laden’s organisation has revealed that the majority had been in further education and were from relatively affluent families. The recruits also tended to come from the wealthier Arab countries.

Sageman’s study is backed by Abdullah Anas, a former senior mujaheddin commander in Afghanistan who now lives in London. “There is no question that most of those who came to Afghanistan in the 1980s were from middle-class backgrounds — teachers, doctors, accountants or imams. Most came with their families,” he said.

Some, like Omar Sheikh, the British-born terrorist, were educated at fee-paying schools before heading for Afghanistan, Bosnia or Chechnya. Sheikh, who has been sentenced to death in Pakistan for his role in the murder of Daniel Pearl, the reporter on The Wall Street Journal, attended Aitchison College in Lahore, Pakistan, and the fee-paying Forest school in east London.

Is it possible to get your fees reimbursed if, at the end of an expensive education, you’ve managed only to convince yourself that blowing people up will make the Seventh Century more popular ?