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Can Knowledge of Islam Explain Lack of Support for Terrorism? Evidence from Pakistan C.

Causes of radicalisationRadicalisationWorld

Studies in Conflict and TerrorismJournal abstract

In this research note we employ the work of Wiktorowicz who suggests that persons who are knowledgeable of Islam may be more capable of critically evaluating the claims of militant recruiters and ideologues and thus be more resistant to their appeals than those who are not knowledgeable. This gives rise to an interesting research question: Does knowledge of Islam reduce support for Islamist militancy? To evaluate this research question, we employ data derived from a nationally representative survey fielded among 16,279 Pakistanis in 2011. Using several survey items, we construct a “knowledge index” to measure respondents’ basic knowledge of Islam, which is our principal independent variable. To operationalize support for militancy we use two survey items that query respondents about their support for two prominent Islamist militant groups based in and from Pakistan: the Afghan Taliban as well the sectarian group, Sipah-e-Sahaba-e-Pakistan (also known as Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat). We use ordinary least squares regression to evaluate the impact of our independent variables upon support for these two groups, controlling for other relevant factors. We find that knowledge of Islam does predict less support for these two groups; however, other variables such as sectarian organization and ethnicity have greater predictive power.

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