Re: “Canadians in ISIS files”, March 11, Lethbridge Herald p. A10

The revelation of the ISIS recruits file is very interesting. I have long puzzled about the radicalization of educated middle-class Western terrorists from various ethnic groups volunteering to join ISIS. March 7 issue of the Mclean’s magazine introduces the research done by Diego Gambera and Steffen Hertog. It shows a curious connection of Jihadists and engineers.

The researchers found, “The presence of engineers among the known Islamist extremists is 14 times greater” than average. They are not saying engineers are potential terrorists. I have to make it absolutely clear, that I reject such stereotyping. The research points to the importance of the balanced use of both sides of a brain, and the need for education that ensure that balance.

The left side of the brain makes us think logically and scientifically while the right side more emotionally and spontaneously. A passionate religious believer who ignores what the left side of the brain says can easily become delusional. An excellent engineer insists only on logic, order and purity ignoring human quality of the left side of the brain can easily be persuaded to give to the extremism. The 9/11 master-mind Khalid Sheikh Mohamed was a well trained engineer. Gambera and Hertog mention a few other examples of terrorists who were likewise engineers. They also mention a high concentration of scientists and engineers among Nazis and Salafissts.

Of course, we must not overlook the “lone wolf” misfits who turn to acts of mass-killing and terrorism. They are found, for examples, in such places like the War Memorial in Ottawa, a summer camp in Norway, Montreal’s Ecole Polytechnique, and market places, schools and theatres in France and the United States. They are often lonely people excluded by peers and society, even bullied. However, the research in question added new food for thought for me.

It warns of the danger of over specialization, the training in narrow and highly specific areas. Though we are born with a certain degree of tendencies one way or another, we have to nurture and develop balanced use of both sides of brain compensating the weaker side. So, mathematicians should be encouraged to read Dalai Lama for example. Likewise a religious believer must at least know what quantum physics is about, and read Stephen Hawking. Smart people can be dangerous without balance.

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