Acton Institute Powerblog

Did ‘inequality’ cause the Manchester bombing?

The mind boggles as it tries to comprehend what could drive someone to bomb a crowd of concert-goers, many of them children, in the name of his or her religion. Some, however, believe they have the answer: economic inequality.

In a new essay for Religion & Liberty Transatlantic, Fr. Peter Farrington – a Coptic priest in the UK – notes that this facile explanation for the darkness that lies within the human heart enjoys the patronage of some of the West’s most respected intellectuals and public figures. 

“Thomas Piketty, the foremost proponent of wealth redistribution today, has said that ‘terrorism feeds on the powder keg of Middle Eastern inequality, that we [the West] have largely contributed to creating,'” he writes.

He could have as easily cited former U.S. Secretary of State (and near-president) John Kerry, who once said, “We have a huge common interest in dealing with this issue of poverty, which in many cases is the root cause of terrorism or even the root cause of the disenfranchisement of millions of people on this planet.”

Yet by meticulously examining one terrorist biography after another, he finds the perpetrators comfortably ensconced in the West’s middle class. After noting their personal backgrounds, he reveals that the disconnect between poverty and jihad holds true for a multitude of terrorists across varying societies, both analytically and anecdotally.” For instance:

Christine Fair and Bryan Shepherd, after analysing the data of the Pew Global Attitudes data, found that, “The very poor are less, not more, likely to support such [terrorist] attacks.” Evidence is increasingly demonstrating that poverty and economic inequality, though certainly drivers of social unrest, are not the causes of terrorism.

The studies he cites can be multiplied across the world. Time magazine reported:

In 2002, Alan Krueger, a professor of economics and public affairs at Princeton, and Jitka Malecková, an associate professor at the Institute for Middle Eastern and African Studies at Charles University, made the argument in The New Republic against poverty’s role in terrorism with a wide-ranging presentation of evidence including evidence gathered from Hezbollah and Hamas suggesting that upper class and more educated individuals are slightly over-represented in among terrorists because terror groups actively select for those individuals from large populations of potential recruits.
The simple, terrifying fact is, there lies within the heart of the West a terrorist presence, radicalized and implacable, ready to strike and heedless of the consequences its members may pay for lashing out. “A disturbingly high proportion of Muslims in the UK had views which were not compatible with British democratic and liberal ideals,” he writes.

The more unsettling darkness, though, is the darkening of the human heart and intentions, whereby the prince of darkness turns those God created to be children of the light and the day against one another.

You can read the full essay here.

(Photo credit: Shutterstock.) 

Rev. Ben Johnson

Rev. Ben Johnson is the former Executive Editor of the Acton Institute's flagship journal Religion & Liberty.