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Engineers of Jihad: The Curious Connection Between Violent Extremism and Education

When we look at important aspects of the book, Gambetta and Hertog’s contribution to the theorization and conceptualization of radicalization stands out, particularly in their study of relative deprivation, and the need for closure and in/out group distinction, all of which play an important, determinant role in understanding the relationship between education and radicalism. While Gambetta and Hertog rely on their own sociologist point of view, they seek a different perspective to social newtwork/milleu analysis in the radicalization studies. The book also successfully shows the structural dynamics of different violent, ideological extremist groups, for example, from the women-to-man distribution ratio, to the contrasts among educational disciplines such as medicine, social sciences, and humanities and the law, in three radical-extremist groups.

 

Over the past decade, radicalization studies have been enriched by new, multi-disciplinary approaches and perspectives revising old and nation-centric terrorism studies as the sole purview of terrorism studies. Since the 2005 London Bombing, apart from terrorism studies, scholars from social psychologists to political scientists have started to study radicalization and its effects. To deal with this seemingly new phenomenon, new concepts such as ‘homegrown terrorism,’ ‘self-starter groups,’ ‘radicalization’ and the like have been put forward by different disciplines. Hence, the authors’ exploration of theory and practice is a timely contribution, helping readers to better understand the concept of radicalization, and increasing the credibility of the field of radicalization studies by exploring its theoretical underpinnings. Radicalization theories are constantly undergoing a process of refinement, and the field remains a discursive science despite claims of objectivity.

Diego Gambetta and Steffen Hertog’s book Engineers of Jihad: The Curious Connection between Violent Extremism and Education is an important contribution to the expanding literature on radicalization studies. It analyzes a variety of factors, from social mobility for engineers in the Muslim World, to a particular mindset seeking order and hierarchy in Islamist and right-left radical organizations. The book consists of six chapters, four of which are about Islamist radicalism. After a short introduction, the first chapter, entitled “The Education of Islamist Extremists,” starts by exploring the connection between the radicalization process and the educational background of some Islamist extremists. Based on their background, the authors reach the surprising conclusion that “…the higher the level of education, the greater the likelihood of joining a violent group, and furthermore that among those with higher education, students with more demanding professiona

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