What causes Muslims to turn to militant Islam? A survey finds that militant Islam (or Islamism) is not a response to poverty or impoverishment as widely argued. The factors that cause Islamism to decline or flourish appear to have more to do with issues of identity than with economics. On the level of individuals, conventional wisdom points to Islamism attracting the poor, the alienated, and the marginal – but research finds precisely the opposite to be true. To the extent that economic factors explain who becomes Islamist, they tend to be fairly well off. Islamists who make the ultimate sacrifice and give up their lives also fit this pattern of financial ease and advanced education. A disproportionate number of terrorists and suicide bombers have higher education, often in engineering and the sciences.
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