Uncivil Engineers: The Surprising Link Between Education and Jihad

Two findings about Islamist radicals stand out. First, among those who have been to university, engineers are dramatically overrepresented almost everywhere across the world and in every jihadist group. Among 207 Islamist radicals in the Muslim world whose degrees we know, 93 (or 44.9 percent) have studied engineering. ...

By contrast, levels of education differ drastically by region: ... Taking into account ... general education levels, the odds that an Islamist radical from the Muslim world has been to university are about 15 times higher than for his [militant] peers from the Western world. ...

[Economic] history also helps account for the prevalence of engineers. They are at the sharp edge of frustrated expectations: engineering is universally one of the most demanding subjects in Muslim-world universities; its tough entry requirements select for talent and ambition. Until the 1970s, engineers constituted a small and typically affluent technocratic elite that had little time for oppositional politics. (Instead, in those days, Islamist groups were dominated by teachers and lawyers.) It is only in the age of mass higher education and economic slowdown, when good employment for engineers starts drying up, that they suddenly show up in radical groups.
— Steffen Hertog and Diego Gambetta