Author delves into why clerics become jihadists

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A new book that focused on jihadist clerics revealed that the Muslim scholars that ended up as jihadists turned out dangerous due to unemployment and their failure to make a living in the mainstream society.

Richard Nielsen, the author of “Deadly Clerics: Blocked Ambition and the Paths to Jihad,” said in his book that majority of the radicalized clerics initially were looking for state-sponsoured jobs where they could put their intellectual training to use, “only to become unemployed, disenchanted, and radicalized.”

According to Nielsen, “frustration with circumstances can make people angry and lead them to political violence. If they don’t have as many connections, they are at greater risk of not making good on the investment they put into their legal training, and at greater risk of becoming jihadists.”

His book focused in close detail to what happens to trained Muslim clerics, using his own on-the-ground observations and deep analysis of online texts clerics produce.

The author discovered that about 10 percent of the clerics writing on the internet are jihadists, although he was quick to point out that clerics publishing online are not representative of all of Islam. He however said he discovered that a lot of those who gained attention that way failed to make ends meet in the society.

He said his intention in the book is to draw the attention of the reader into the world of Muslim clerics in the same way he spent almost a decade in the study. He revealed that not everyone who becomes a jihadist was a thwarted cleric but some became jihadist clerics by attaching to radicalism before engaging in clerical study.

In gathering information for the book, Nielson spent two years doing research among students training to be clerics in Cairo, Egypt capital and he also performed a deep textual analysis of the online writings of a sample group of clerics, to see what proportion developed radical leanings; he did that in part through computerized searches for key words, phrases, and textual patterns.

Richard Nielsen
Richard Nielsen

The result which eventually involved the author scrutinizing a group of 200 clerics is a work that is equal parts anthropological investigation and big-data analysis of Islamic writing.

Nielson also pointed out in his book that jihadist clerics like Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and Ayman al-Zawahiri, the present leader of al-Qaeda, are some of the known jihadist clerics whose experience of not getting the needed space in state-sponsored cleric appointment led to what he called “blocked ambition.”

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