Seminar Abstract

Rich Nielsen, ABD (Department of Government, Harvard University)

"Jihadi Radicalization of Muslim Clerics: Evidence from Text"

Time: 12:30 pm on Nov. 16, 2012
Place: Denny 401

Abstract: This project explains why some Muslim clerics adopt the ideology of militant Jihad while most do not. I show that clerics are far more likely to become producers of Jihadist ideology when they lack a dense, well-connected educational network. These poorly connected clerics face severe disadvantages on the cleric job market, which push them toward outsider career paths and ideological extremism. I provide evidence of these dynamics by collecting and analyzing 29,430 fatwas, articles, and books written by 91 contemporary clerics. Using statistical natural language processing --- a modified Naïve Bayes classifier --- I measure the extent to which each cleric adopts Jihadi ideology in their writing. I combine this with biographical and network information about each cleric make descriptive and causal inference about the process by which poorly-connected clerics become more likely to adopt Jihadi ideology.