Sageman says the international media’s image of the jihadist as an desperate, brainwashed young bachelor with no diploma is usually false, but are all his assessments convincing?
The stereotype of the poor, uneducated jihadist is largely incorrect, and this does not surprise anybody who has looked closely at the matter. At least a half of international jihadists have a solid upper-middle class background, and around 15% are even richer. The poor are a significant minority, except in the Maghreb region (which includes Western Europe, for Sageman). Most of the converts, however, are from disadvantaged classes.
Sageman also says international jihadists are neither ignorant nor deprived from access to education. Their level of education is well above the international average, and well above the average in the Global South. Moreover, if we ignore the Maghreb region, the average education level of jihadists is even higher.
The author also makes some interesting points: most international jihadists are better educated than their parents, who did not became jihadists. In addition, many of them are well-travelled, so Sageman assumes they know the world and are definitely not narrow-minded ethnocentrists. He adds, therefore, that we cannot say they were brainwashed.
Let us pause for a moment. Sageman claims more than once his research destroys the stereotypes. He may be destroying the medias’ discourse. However, for anyone who has carefully studied the issue, all this is banal stuff — there is until now nothing new under the sun. Most of his findings can be found in Kepel’s early works.