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10 Facts About Poverty’s Role in Terrorism

poverty's role in terrorism
There seems to be a close connection between poverty and terrorism. In fact, many argue that poverty breeds terrorism. Even if it does not do so in a direct manner, one only needs to look closer to find the intricate ties between poverty and terrorism. Poverty’s role in terrorism becomes clearer when viewed through the lens of interconnectedness that unravels and unpacks the consequences of poverty. For instance, poverty often deprives people of an adequate education and can lead to marginalization in society, both of which can result in extremist beliefs among impoverished people. These 10 facts about poverty’s role in terrorism make the connection clearer.

10 Facts About Poverty’s Role in Terrorism

  1. The world’s most dangerous nations are also among the poorest. For instance, the Global Terrorism Index (GTI) in 2012 revealed that lower-middle-income countries accounted for seven of the 10 countries most affected by terrorism. Nations such as Iraq, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria, which were among the 10 most dangerous countries, also struggle with rampant poverty.
  2. Poverty often deprives people of the ability to obtain an adequate education, and a lack of education leaves many people vulnerable to negative influences. Oftentimes, children from low income or extremely poor families only able to receive an education at madrassas or religious schools, which are targeted by violent extremists looking to indoctrinate and recruit innocent youngsters. Additionally, the top ten most dangerous countries in the 2012 GTI consisted of nations with high illiteracy rates.
  3. Impoverished people often grow up in marginalized and poor areas, which are overlooked by the government. A deep sense of marginalization can lead such people to engage in terrorist activities.
  4. Poverty often goes hand-in-hand with poor governance in a nation. In fact, sometimes poor governance continues the cycle of poverty. Poor people in such nations often feel marginalized not only because of their status but also the hopelessness that comes with the justified mistrust in their government. As a result, they might join groups that promote extremist actions in order to feel like they are being heard and their needs are being considered.
  5. Feelings of deprivation that are caused by being unemployed or the fear of unemployment can lead to extremist thoughts in people, thereby inviting them to engage in terrorist activities. For instance, a 2005 study found a significant positive correlation between state-level unemployment and the incidence of right-wing extremist crimes.
  6. Poor healthcare or lack of access to healthcare is very common in poor countries. In fact, most of the 10 most dangerous countries in the 2012 GTI are also among the places where the most people die from preventable diseases.
  7. More than the lack of material resources, the feeling that an individual cannot make meaningful life choices to alter their living conditions can also lead some to engage in desperate acts. Poverty strips people of their dignity, opportunities and meaningful choices.
  8. Terrorist groups’ community development activities demonstrate a link between insurgency and extreme poverty. For instance, Hamas spends most of its resources providing social, cultural, welfare and educational activities for the Palestinian people, and the Taliban built madrassas to offer free education to poor children in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
  9. Even among those living in first world countries, a propensity toward terrorism has been found in groups that live below the poverty line. For instance, according to a 2008 Census Bureau study, American Somalis, 82 percent of whom live near or below the poverty line, are the largest group traveling to fight with jihadist groups abroad.
  10. World leaders agree that poverty is linked to terrorism. For instance, in reference to budget cuts, Secretary of Defense James Mattis famously said, “If you don’t fund the State Department fully, then I need to buy more ammunition ultimately.”

These 10 facts about poverty’s role in terrorism demonstrate that a lack of access to basic necessities can make people desperate enough to engage in terrorist activities. Hopefully, acknowledging poverty as one of the root causes of terrorism will help people find ways to eradicate it altogether.

– Mehruba Chowdhury

Photo: Flickr