THE typical recruit to Al-Qaeda, the terrorist organisation, is upper middle class, has been educated in the West and is from a professional background, according to a new study.
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.
Dr Marc Sageman, a forensic psychiatrist who conducted the study, said he assumed it would find that most Al-Qaeda recruits were poor and ill-educated. “The common stereotype is that terrorism is a product of poor, desperate, naive, single young men from Third World countries, vulnerable to brainwashing and recruitment into terror,” he said.
However, his study showed that three-quarters of the Al-Qaeda members were from upper middle-class homes and many were married with children; 60% were college educated, often in Europe or the United States.
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.
Sageman said most of the terrorists come from a small number of wealthy Arab countries, from immigrant communities in the West or from southeast Asia. Few are from poor Islamic countries such as Afghanistan.