Of course, if CNN had been reading Jihad Watch, they would have known this long ago. Search the archives here and you will find stories going back to the beginning about Sageman’s and other studies establishing that jihadists are generally better educated and wealthier than their peers. From the Stop the Presses Department, via CNN: “Expert: Not all al Qaeda poor, uneducated, devout” (thanks to Mediawatch):
(CNN) — With his penchant for bow ties and sport jackets, Dr. Marc Sageman looks every inch the psychiatrist and professor that he is — not the spy he used to be, nor the agent provocateur he is now.
Sageman has emerged as something of an intellectual bomb thrower, producing a groundbreaking study about Islamic terrorists and their terror networks that challenges conventional beliefs.
His research shows that many of these terrorists — including the September 11 hijackers and other al Qaeda members — tend to be fairly well educated and affluent, and don’t come from deeply religious backgrounds.
After the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks, Sageman says he saw a void in knowledge about Islamic terrorists, at that point deciding to help fill it by building on his first-hand experience with in-depth research.
“There were a lot of talking heads, I just didn’t think they knew what they were talking about,” he recalls. “There were no real facts.”
Sageman got his first glimpse inside the world of jihadis between 1987 and 1989, when he lived in Islamabad, Pakistan.
Officially, he worked as a political officer at the U.S. Embassy. But Sageman’s real job was with the Central Intelligence Agency, working with members of what was then known as the mujahideen in the fight against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.
Sageman left the CIA in 1991, having previously earned a medical school degree and Ph.D. in political sociology. He then trained as a forensic psychiatrist, saying that he eventually interviewed close to 500 murderers.
That background — examining killers’ psychiatric profiles, working for the CIA and living in the combustible and terrorist-heavy region of South Central Asia — gives him the skills and perspective to study the September 11 hijackers and their ilk, he says.
Sageman began by compiling biographical information — using material from public sources, including court documents and investigative news reports — on the hijackers and the few associates named in the press.
“Even at the small number of 25 [terrorists], I realized the conventional wisdom was wrong.”
The conventional wisdom, he says, being that these were poor, uneducated young men who had a long-term exposure to fundamentalist religious beliefs.
Cliques becoming terror cells
While teaching at the University of Pennsylvania, Sageman expanded on his research to include 162 terrorists and turned it into the groundbreaking book, “Understanding Terror Networks.” He came across some compelling numbers:
“¢ About two-thirds of the terrorists went to college, in an area of the world where only about 10 percent of young men get a post-secondary education
“¢ About 87 percent came from generally secular backgrounds (most of the other 13 percent, who studied at the Muslim schools known as madrassas, were Indonesians)
“¢ Most came from middle or upper-middle class households
Sageman calls “kinship and friendship” the main reasons young men join al Qaeda, claiming that friends and relatives brought more than 90 percent of the membership into the fold.
This means recruitment is much more personal than previously thought, he says.
He cites several cases, including that of September 11 hijacker Mohammad Atta and the so-called Hamburg cell, consisting of a group of like-minded young men. As their religious views became more extreme, they cut themselves off from the outside world and became involved in terrorist activity.
“They are very ordinary,” he said. “They form cliques and radicalize each other.
Invariably, most of the groups that became al Qaeda followed that trajectory.”