Jihadists, including aspiring suicide bombers, who have been recruited by the Islamic State are likely to be well-educated and relatively wealthy, according to a study by the World Bank.
“An important finding is that these individuals are far from being uneducated or illiterate. Most claim to have attended secondary school and a large fraction have gone on to study at university,” said the study, titled Economic and Social Inclusion to Prevent Violent Extremism.
“We find that Daesh [ISIS] did not recruit its foreign workforce among the poor and less educated, but rather the opposite. Instead, the lack of economic inclusion seems to explain the extent of radicalization into violent extremism,” it adds.
According to the World Bank study, of 331 recruits identified in a leaked Islamic State database, only 17 percent did not finish high school, and a quarter had a university-level education, while “15% left school before high school and less than 2% are illiterate.”
“A large fraction [of recruits] have gone on to study at university. … Recruits from Africa, south and east Asia and the Middle East are significantly more educated than individuals from their cohort in their region of origin,” said the report.
When asked by the Islamic State what role they hoped to play within the terrorist group, the number of those who aspired to be administrators and “suicide fighters” increased with education, noted the study.
The report found that neither inequality nor poverty drove Muslims to engage in violent extremism. In fact, wealthier nations were likelier to supply foreign recruits willing to fight for the Islamic State.
“In countries with a large Muslim population, low degrees of religiosity, low levels of trust in religious institutions and strong government and social control of religion seem to be risk factors of radicalization,” the report determined.
“The research, based on internal records from the Islamic State group, will reinforce the growing conclusion among specialists that there is no obvious link between poverty or educational levels and radicalization,” reports the Guardian.
Some analysts have been disseminating the notion that the Islamic State is likely to attract poor Muslims with a low level education to join their cause. At one point, the Obama administration blamed poverty for the growth of the terrorist group.
Earlier this year, news reports emerged saying that, in Pakistan, the Islamic State was attracting recruits from the educated upper-class, which is consistent with the World Bank study findings.
“Policies that promote job creation, therefore, not only benefit young people seeking jobs but may help thwart the spread of violent extremism and its attendant effects on national and regional economic growth,” the World Bank researchers noted.
The study was gleaned from data leaked by a disaffected former Islamic State member in March that includes basic information on 3,083 foreign recruits from all over the Muslim world and Europe, who joined the terrorists group between early 2013 and late 2014, when the flow of fighters to the organization reached a peak.
Once the fighters arrived in Islamic State-held territory, they were vetted and interviewed, a move that resulted in the recording of data on country of residence, citizenship, marital status, skills, educational status, previous extremist experience, and knowledge of Islamic law.
“Ongoing research into causes of Islamic militancy has underlined the complexity of motives of recruits and volunteers, as well as the differences between different conflict zones,” points out the Guardian.