Confounding the Jihad Poverty Pimps

“Not a single study could make a cogent case that terrorism had economic roots.”

The above quote is something that is well-known within the Counterjihad, even if it has not penetrated the consciousness of our political leaders. Despite what the jihad poverty pimps would have us believe, there is no correlation between Islamic terrorism and the poverty of its practitioners.

In fact, according to a major Pakistani news service, the most recent studies indicate the opposite: Middle-class Pakistanis are twenty-three times as likely to commit terrorist acts than their impoverished brethren.

This is a stunning reversal of the conventional wisdom. If only we could grab the lapels of the political class and shake them until they pay attention!

Sultan Mehmood, the author of the article below, has some refreshing observations to make:

“To understand what causes terrorism, one need not ask how much of a population is illiterate or in abject poverty. Rather one should ask who holds strong enough political views to impose them through terrorism.”

And also:

“The solution to terrorism is not more growth but more freedom.”

From Dawn:

The roots of terrorism
by Sultan Mehmood

A CURSORY analysis of the START Global Terrorism Database reveals that over the past decade, Pakistan has had the highest number of terrorism-related deaths in the world.

In fact, the death toll exceeds the combined terrorism-related deaths for both Europe and North America. Hence, an understanding of terrorism, its dynamics, its causes, the reasons for its escalation and de-escalation is of utmost importance to Pakistan.

Unfortunately, policymakers, academics and politicians in Pakistan increasingly rely on speculation and their intuition alone to deal with this menace. The purpose of this article is to dispel the myth that reforms in education and economic growth alone will bring down terrorism levels.

Most certainly, education and growth policies should be pursued in their own right, but to expect that these policies will reduce terrorism is based on pure conjecture. A myriad of studies go against the “conventional wisdom” view of terrorism. The story goes that it is those poor, young, illiterate and brainwashed teens who have nothing to live for that turn to terrorism. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.

Linking unemployment with crime and explaining optimal punishment designs had won Gary Becker the Nobel Prize in economics. He showed that criminals “rationally” decide to perpetrate crimes given the probability of getting caught and the severity of possible punishment. He further found that high unemployment and poverty rates are related closely to higher crime rates.

Hence, in a study of terrorism it was natural to study whether a high degree of impoverishment increased terrorism levels. This belief was shared by world leaders and top academics. For example, former US president George Bush argued: “We fight against poverty because hope is an answer to terror.”

Similarly, Jessica Stern of Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government notes: “(The United States) can no longer afford to allow states to fail … new Osamas will continue to rise.” These views were shared by others such as Bill Clinton, King Abdullah of Jordan, the archbishop of Canterbury and Tony Blair.

Nevertheless, to the frustration of many academics, the simple positive relationship between poverty and (material) crime could not be extrapolated to a positive structural relationship between poverty and terrorism.

Not a single study could make a cogent case that terrorism had economic roots. This lack of evidence culminated in a recent review of the literature by Martin Gassebner and Simon Luechinger of the KOF Swiss Economic Institute.

The authors estimated 13.4 million different equations, drew on 43 different studies and 65 correlates of terrorism to conclude that higher levels of poverty and illiteracy are not associated with greater terrorism. In fact, only the lack of civil liberties and high population growth could predict high terrorism levels accurately.

So does this relation also hold for Pakistan? It appears so. Christine Fair from Georgetown University documents a similar phenomenon for Pakistan. By utilising data on 141 killed militants, she finds that militants in Pakistan are recruited from middle-class and well-educated families. This is further corroborated by Graeme Blair and others at Princeton University.


They too find evidence of a higher support base of terrorism from those who are relatively wealthy in Pakistan. In a robust survey of 6,000 individuals across Pakistan, it is found that the poor are actually 23 times more averse to extremist violence relative to middle-class citizens.

My own work too comes to a similar conclusion. Exploiting the econometric concept of Granger causality and drawing on data from 1973-2010 in Pakistan, I document a one-way causality running from terrorism to GDP, investments and exports.

The results indicated that higher incidence of terrorism reduced GDP, investments and exports. However, higher GDP, exports and investment did not reduce terrorism.

The bottom line: when the economy was not doing well, terrorism did not increase and vice versa.

In the present context the Granger causality test ascertains what consistently happens first i.e. do high incomes reduce terrorism in the future rather than higher terrorism reducing incomes in the future and vice versa?

Alan Krueger from Princeton University seems to have an explanation for this “counter-intuitive” phenomenon. After analysing extensive micro- and macro-level data, he too concludes that in fact terrorists are relatively more educated and are recruited from wealthier families.

But he observes another pattern in data: a systematic relationship between political oppression and higher incidence of terrorism.

He relates terrorism to voting behaviour and concludes that terrorism is a “political, not an economic phenomenon”. He defends his results by arguing at length that political involvement requires some understanding of the issues and learning about those issues is a less costly endeavour for those who are better educated.

Just as the more educated are more likely to vote, similarly they are more likely to politically express themselves through terrorism. Hence, political oppression drives people towards terrorism.

To understand what causes terrorism, one need not ask how much of a population is illiterate or in abject poverty. Rather one should ask who holds strong enough political views to impose them through terrorism.

It is not that most terrorists have nothing to live for. Far from it, they are the high-ability and educated political people who so vehemently believe in a cause that they are willing to die for it. The solution to terrorism is not more growth but more freedom.

The writer is an advisor to the Dutch government on macroeconomic policy. His research interests include dynamics of terrorism.

Hat tip: Fjordman.

14 thoughts on “Confounding the Jihad Poverty Pimps

  1. Pingback: Confounding the Jihad Poverty Pimps | Vlad Tepes

  2. Without exception, the worst terrorists are those educated in Western colleges — typically with free educations, provided by Western governments.

    Strangely, they are also concentrated in the hard sciences and engineering as against the classic liberal arts majors.

    Go down the list. It’s an impressive corelation.

    • Thank you. That’s the correct diagnosis. The worst/best dhimmi enemies are those that are nurtured on dhimmi sweat.

  3. Sultan Mehmood, your honest presentation of the trends and the conclusion is a credit for you and your upbringing. Congratulations on being part of the solution. I realize that you do not present your own views at this time, but it does not matter much, the most important is honesty. Regards!

  4. A poor man with a gun and a localised circumstantial greivence – atomised and politically neutered safer than stating a middle class jihadist with a AK47 and a theopolitical worldview.

  5. Pingback: Jihad causes poverty, not the other way around — Winds Of Jihad By SheikYerMami

  6. I rather think that Sultan Mehmood’s analysis, expanded, could give him a far more intellectually valuable doctorate than the cheats with doctorates in “islamic studies”.

    • Muslims always accuse the Western people of not knowing about Islam and its wonderful deeds. Then I learned about Islam and Muslims. I had a big dose of “islamic studies”. I learned that after two years since Muhammad started his fitna, the sword never left his hand and he used it as much as possible to force others to accept his ideas, to kill anyone with money and possessions, to force others to give him 95 % of whatever they harvested. Anyone who is immersed in “islamic studies” would be ashamed that such bloody man can be called any thing other than a killer. Well except by Western university professors.

  7. Pingback: Rich Muslims More Likely to Support Terrorism than Poor Muslims | Tony Johnson

  8. Mohamed Merah, the “French” terrorist who gunned down four soldiers, three Jewish children and one Jewish professor before being smoked out and killed by police special forces, used to have regular skiing vacations.

    You need to be at least middle-class to indulge in such pleasures. Most of his money probably came from criminal activities, but he certainly was not a pauper.

  9. Pingback: “Just repeat after me and you’re done…” — Winds Of Jihad By SheikYerMami

  10. Pingback: Son los ricos los terroristas, no los pobres | La Reina de la Noche

  11. Pingback: Rich Muslims More Likely to Support Terrorism than Poor Muslims | The Counter Jihad Report

  12. M. Atta is an exemplar. He started out as an Arab liberal — secular, in fact.

    He was given a free ride ( all expenses paid education ) in northern Germany, so that he might pursue his avocation: urban architecture. (Sim City writ large.)

    Upon his (brief) return to Egypt — and Arabia, generally, he discovered that absolutely no one — no despot — would hire him. He had brains — but absolutely no family connections. ( Tribal connections )

    He extended his studies in Germany — by this time he’d resigned himself to being a professional student.

    Then he went fundamentalist — and dedicated his life to anti-urban architecture: the destruction of city centers.

    =========

    His life’s grand arc is repeated, repeated, repeated, repeated,… ad nauseum — in fanatic circles.

    =========

    It’s echoed in the Cairo revolution: the vast bulk of the protesters were — and are — jobless college graduates. Even Cairo University is cranking out far, far, more degreed students than the market can absorb.

    It’s a phenomena that’s coming home to the West as the most important trend — even for native Europeans and Americans.

    We’ve got too many colleges cranking out too many graduates with too little value — because the course content has been debased like Weimar banknotes. It’s an education of envy and hate: mountains made out of mole hills.

    Graduate expectations are still keyed very high, though.

    When blended with Leftist, nay Islamist, screeds; the way forward to absolute fanaticism is a too common result.

    Free food and free higher education profered to the muslims entirely backfire against the infidel West. The four horsemen are the only correctors that might mutate islam and islamism.

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