It is estimated that more than 50 percent of the world’s Muslim population is under the age of 18, which is a terrifying demographic, especially since most of these young people have little or no access to education and employment. They are frustrated by the corrupt governments that rule them. They see double standards played out by the West, which insists on democracy in Iraq, but not elsewhere in the region. They are aware that Islam was once the foundation of a great culture, and they wonder what has happened because their generation has experienced only poverty, war and destruction, corruption, and nepotism. Somehow, this problem must be turned to an advantage: These young people, if properly educated and given opportunity, could instead be the engine of change and economic progress.
True Islam encourages Muslims to adapt to changing times, but extreme fundamentalists have always opposed anything new, from the telegraph to television. They oppose modern education because they say that it teaches topics that are not in harmony with Islam. Educated Muslims know that this is a ploy to prevent young, active minds from challenging them.
It becomes a vicious cycle: By deliberately depriving young Muslims from receiving a good education, the fundamentalists ensure that the future of their potential recruits is bleak and the resulting frustrations make them easily susceptible to terrorist ideology. That ideology requires them to violently reject any ideas that challenge fundamentalist precepts and prevents their learning the importance of freedom of thought and speech that separate logical ideas from emotional biases, the very thing on which the vibrant societies that most people want for their children can be built.