The story of the Boston bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev shocked the American public consciousness and made many ask: how could a person with a good education from a well-off family turn out to be a terrorist?
A new study conducted by a British university answers that question — the results may be surprising.
According to the study conducted by Queen Mary University in London found that youth, wealth and a full-time education are significant risk factors for violent radicalization. The researchers worked from the belief that radicalization is a process and focused on the factors that define the pre-radicalization phase and make individuals susceptible to the messaging of extremist groups in their study.
“We’re offering a new paradigm for sympathies as an early phase of radicalization that can be measured,” the study’s lead author, Kamaldeep Bhui, told Al-Jazeera News.
The study surveyed over 600 men and women from Britain’s South Asian Muslim community and attempted to assess their reactions to 16 different acts that could be considered terrorism, such as suicide bombings to avenge alleged injustices. The study found that only 2.4% of the respondents have favorable opinions of violence in general — but those who were under 20, maintaining a full-time education while not retaining full-time employment, and those with incomes over $125,00 were more likely to express sympathy for terrorist acts.
Another surprising finding of the study showed that recent immigrants, those who spoke a non-English language at home, and respondents who were experiencing mental health issues, such as depression, were less likely to view terrorist acts favorably.
These findings shocked the research team and the lead researcher believes that this study contradicts previous assumptions about home-grown terrorists in Western countries.
“One explanation for homegrown terrorism in high-income countries is that it’s about inequality-related grievances,” Bhui said in his interview with Al-Jazeera. “We were surprised that [the] inequality paradigm seems not to be supported. The study essentially seemed to show that those born in the U.K. consistent with the radicalization paradigm are actually more affluent or well-off.”