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November 16, 2012
Jihadi Radicalization of Muslim Clerics: Evidence from Text
UW Center for Statistics and the Social Sciences

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

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.

12:30 pm - 1:20 pm
Denny 312
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