Mehdi Hasan presents evidence in an article in the New Statesman that jihadists aren’t the most devout of Muslims. Often the opposite.
“In 2008, a classified briefing note on radicalisation, prepared by MI5’s behavioural science unit, was leaked to the Guardian. It revealed that, ‘far from being religious zealots, a large number of those involved in terrorism do not practise their faith regularly. Many lack religious literacy and could . . . be regarded as religious novices.’ The analysts concluded that ‘a well-established religious identity actually protects against violent radicalisation,’ the newspaper said.”
Other factors outweigh religious ones in making a terrorist: “Instead they point to other drivers of radicalisation: moral outrage, disaffection, peer pressure, the search for a new identity, for a sense of belonging and purpose. As Atran pointed out in testimony to the US Senate in March 2010: ‘. . . what inspires the most lethal terrorists in the world today is not so much the Quran or religious teachings as a thrilling cause and call to action that promises glory and esteem in the eyes of friends, and through friends, eternal respect and remembrance in the wider world.’ He described wannabe jihadists as ‘bored, underemployed, overqualified and underwhelmed’ young men for whom ‘jihad is an egalitarian, equal-opportunity employer . . . thrilling, glorious and cool.’”
These motivations should sound familiar. They sound like very Western, very contemporary reasons to seek the thrill of the kill.