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Samuel Gregg asks, ‘what causes terrorism?’

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“[W]hen the center of the global economy is the god of money,” Pope Francis stated recently in an interview, “[t]errorism grows.” Curious about the Pope’s somewhat economistic explanation for Islamist terrorism, Samuel Gregg asks, “do factors such as economic poverty and greed really function as major causes of Islamist terrorism?” He recently wrote an article for the Stream examining this.

The available research on this question, Gregg points out, suggests not. As he summarizes:

In short, terrorists generally aren’t economically poor or from impoverished backgrounds. Moreover, if poverty or absence of economic opportunity drove people to immolate themselves and innocent bystanders, drive trucks into large crowds, slit priests’ throats, execute nuns or axe Jews to death, you’d expect similar events to occur regularly in places such as China’s rural impoverished Eastern regions, large swathes of India or downtown Detroit for several decades. But they aren’t.

If it’s not poverty, then what drives young men (and some women) to commit these atrocious acts? Gregg stresses that the overwhelming majority of Muslims are not violent, let alone terrorists. But there is still a disturbing similarity among today’s terrorists:

[M]ost terrorists today are Muslims whose religious convictions are a major reason why they plunder, torture and murder others — including other Muslims. Imagining that reducing economic inequality in Islamic nations, or that increasing welfare-payments to poor Muslims in Western Europe will somehow diminish terrorism not only doesn’t fit the evidence. It fails to take Islam seriously as a religion.

And that’s of no service to anyone — especially Muslims.

See Gregg’s full analysis in “No, Pope Francis, the economy doesn’t cause terrorism.”

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Sarah Stanley

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