Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Lawrence Wright speaks at Princeton

On April 25, 2007, Lawrence Wright gave a speech on the radicalization of Muslims at Princeton University. In his speech, he discussed a pair of studies that looked at the backgrounds of the people who committed acts of terrorism. The first study was conducted by Saad Eddin Ibrahim, a professor at the American University in Cairo. Ibrahim learned that most of the young, radicalized Muslims who were incarcerated in Egypt were not the people Ibrahim expected to find there.

“To his surprise, he discovered they were mostly ambitious and well educated young men,” said Wright. “They were drawn to the fields of science and engineering. He called them model young Egyptians.”

The other study examined the backgrounds of the terrorists who trained at the Al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan during the 90s.

“These were not impoverished social failures,” said Wright. “They were, many of them, from middle and upper class families. They were from intact families. They were college educated. They were not the products of the religious schools. Many of them actually were educated in Europe or America. Some of them spoke as many as five or six languages. They had no obvious mental disorders. Interestingly enough, many of them weren’t even very religious when they went into the Al Qaeda camps.”

In his speech, Wright also noted that many of the terrorists who had been targeting Britain were not foreigners or immigrants.

“If you look at the recent plots that have been taking place or have been broken up in the UK – the subway bombings, the ten airliners that were suppose to be hijacked and blown up over the Atlantic – these were second and third generation British citizens,” said Wright.

In the rest of his speech, Wright tried to explain how these Muslims became radicalized. His theory is all wrong and so I won’t repeat it here. In fact, these Muslims are being radicalized by Western intelligence agencies.

The person who conducted the second study was a man by the name of Marc Sageman. Sageman was a psychiatrist and a case officer for the CIA during the Soviet war in Afghanistan.

“There’s a combination you don’t run into everyday,” quipped Wright.

Actually, it is no coincidence that Sageman is both a psychiatrist and a CIA case officer for Afghanistan. After all, to fight against the Soviets in Afghanistan, the CIA needed to radicalize young Muslims and who better to do that than a psychiatrist. Remember that Henry A. Murray, the Harvard psychologist who radicalized the Unabomber, also worked for the CIA. And remember that Murray conducted his radicalization program at Harvard University. As such, it is not surprising that many of these radicalized Muslims went to an American or European university.

It is also not a coincidence that many of these Muslims are scientists or engineers. It appears that Western intelligence agencies prefer to radicalize engineers instead of liberal arts majors. For one thing, us engineers – and for the record I got a computer science degree – are often, well, weird. Many of us are loners. Regardless of whether or not that makes us easier to radicalize, it at least makes it easier for the media to explain why we “went off the deep end.”

This will not stand.