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file under: extremistseducation 5 Aug 2007 6:53 PM
Can Education Stop Terrorism? Posted by Nissim Dahan

My brother and I were talking the other day and he was wondering how it could be that medical doctors in England could have been part of a terror cell. Doesn’t terrorism, at the very least, violate the Hippocratic Oath? You would think so, wouldn’t you?


My response was that many of us naturally assume that an educated person, particularly a physician, would be less vulnerable to ideological extremism. But that, unfortunately, doesn’t seem to be the case. Al-Qaeda’s number two man, Ayman al-Zawahiri, is a physician. Bin Laden himself is highly educated and comes from a prominent family. Many of the 9/11 hijackers were highly educated and well off financially. And during World War II, Dr. Mengele, who personally and ruthlessly tortured thousands of people during the Holocaust, was a medical doctor as well.


So obviously, education and financial well being do not, in and of themselves, protect a person from succumbing to ideological extremism. In fact, it could well be argued that along with a high level secular education comes the ability to rationalize, which in turn could better enable a person to rationalize the validity of his extremist ideas. Similarly, financial security could liberate a person to pursue his inclinations toward extremist thinking.


Promoting secular education and financial opportunities in the Middle East are not likely to deter the extremists in their pursuit of the ideological imperative. So why bother to promote education and financial opportunity? The hope is that if you empower the vast majority of moderate Muslims, with an education and with a job, and give them a place at the table, a stake in their future, they will then be willing to exert some pressure on the extremists. When you have nothing, and are finally able to grab hold of something good, you may think twice about letting someone else take it away from you. Especially if that person makes no sense to you.


In fact, the moderate majority may well be in a better position than we are to defeat the extremists. When we take the extremists on, we, in effect, augment their power and influence by anointing them as martyrs in the eyes of their own people. However, when the moderate majority takes on the extremists, they can make their will known quite powerfully, and they usually don’t take "no" for an answer. The will of the masses will not be deterred! Empower the man on the street and he will use that power to hold on to what is his.


When the man on the street looks at the table, and there's nothing there except extremism, then that's what he's probably going to buy into. But if he looks at the table, and sees a job waiting for him, he may think twice about jumping onto the extremist bandwagon. The West is well advised to put that option on the table.

Comments (4)Add Comment
God's Warriors
written by Slava, August 20, 2007
CNN is dedicating 6 hours of primetime this week to Christiane Amanpour's documentary on religious fundamentalism. Should be interesting...
re: God's Warriors
written by Jimmy, August 20, 2007
Funny how God needs us to do his fighting.
An alternative to fear and anger
written by edahan, September 10, 2007
These people, including extremists on all sides, are full of anger, probably resulting from ignorance and fear. I suppose that even some doctors are vulnerable to this type of anger, especially if it is ingrained from and early age.

The question is how to displace this anger with mutual respect and understanding. The only way that I believe that this will happen is with better education, interaction with the West, and communication. That seems to have worked with China, and even with North Korea.
What about belief?
written by Nissim Dahan, September 10, 2007
You talk about fear and anger. What about belief? What if people really believe in their cause. How would you deal with misguided belief?

China is a good example. The Chinese government believed in Communism like who knows what. But they left the door open for a business relationship to develop with the West. Now, people on both sides are making money, and the level of ideological rhetoric has been toned down considerably. Doesn't a booming economy lead to a reorientation of the ideological imperative?
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