Jihad rooted in theology, not economics

By Dave Petteys (dpetteys@comcast.net) Listening to a talk show yesterday, I heard yet again a gentlemen assert that the way to end Jihadism was to "treat the underlying structural cause", which he believed to be poverty. His model was the uneducated unemployed young Muslim in a Palestinian camp with nothing better to do than to strap on an explosive belt.

Thus, all that's necessary is to spread around aid, and give these young men a "place in society" and Jihadism goes away. In essence, we can and must buy them off! But this is a dangerous misperception that doesn't wash. Consider the following:

** Sayyd Kutb, theoretician for the Muslim Brotherhood, studied in America and was appalled by what he saw

** Osama Bin Laden himself is from a very wealthy Saudi family in the construction business.

** Most of the 9/11 hijackers were from middle-class families who had all the advantages of education, travel, etc.

** Those recently arrested in London were all educated and middle class British subjects, some of whom had never been in the Middle East

** Iran is awash in oil billions without the Shi'ia militancy diminishing a mite.

The sad fact is: Jihadism is caused by religious fanaticism. Period. Unfortunately, many of PhD's in the policy think tanks are secularists. Religious fanaticism simply does not compute for them. Most cut their eye teeth during the Cold War, and they assume everyone thinks like they do. They are used to dealing with the Russians who have their interests, are rational, and would negotiate. They cannot understand the Islamic demand to "convert or die" nor do they take it seriously.

They have thus reverted to the tried and true economic causality because it's the only explanation that makes sense to them. But the tragedy would be to base our policy on such misperceptions. It would be an ineffective waste of our resources. The challenge of Jihad is theological, not economic.