Very often these persons have already chosen such unambiguous technical fields as engineering, architecture, computer science, or medicine. Students of the humanities and social sciences were few and far between in my sample." (Dr. Marc Sageman, "Understanding Terrorist Networks," University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004, p. 116.)
Unambiguous, indeed. B.D., d
Islam is one of the most communal of all religions, with many orchestrated shared rituals … Islam prescribes regular behavioral practices such as praying, often in groups, five times daily. It also proscribes many practices, depending on the interpretations one accepts. Salafi Islam is very strict in its code of conduct and prescribes various codes of appearance, dress, diet, and conduct especially vis-à-vis gender roles. Salafists believe in a literal interpretation of the Quran and the life of the Prophet, and in the necessity of imposing Sharia [strict Koranic law] in the state and protecting the faithful from corruption by Western values. The elegance and simplicity of its interpretations attract many who seek a single solution devoid of ambiguity [sic]. (Ibid.)
are sources of ambiguity within Islam. In rejecting them, terrorists reveal their final, real goal: not Islam but relief from ambivalence.
Moslems who want to fight terrorists, take note. A mosque member's rejection of analogies and the consensus of scholars is an indicator, a red flag. It may mean nothing. But it could be the trace of a terrorist, already developed or in the making.
The choice of a hard science major and a rejection of components of Islam: being in the public domain, both are standard indicators of terrorism, not creative ones. (Revealing the latter here, in public, would be a different kettle of fish.) I should note that it was the study of middle class rebellion that created the glasses to see indicators of terrorism where others saw only mundane habits and quaint eccentricities.
Is there a silver bullet somewhere for identifying terrorists? I doubt it. What is certain is that some indicators are more effective and innovative than others. For now, I suggest focusing on accumulations of indicators. Being a Moslem, for example, in and of itself indicates almost nothing. A Moslem who rejects Islam's analogies and the scholarly consensus and who is also an engineering student, on the other hand, merits attention. If he buys a lot of a certain fertilizer, all the more so.
CIA and FBI agents frequently complain about the megatons of terrorist "chatter" they have to sift. Quickly, quietly, and efficiently, the creative indicators help perform that task.
When all is said and done, the truth is, in Galileo's words, easy to understand: go hunting where the ducks are. B.D., now there's a meaty explanation if there ever was one. Let's hope you don't break a tooth on any shotgun pellets.