Michael Burleigh, writing in the Daily Mail, is disturbed by stories of doctors waging jihad in Syria. Of special concern are the ties many of these doctors have to Western states.
What is it about terrorism that seems to attract a disproportionate number of the medical fraternity?
Doctors are hard-working, organised and intelligent. They are also a comparative rarity in developing societies, where they can enjoy an elevated status because they so often have the power of life or death over desperately impoverished people in need of medical help. But it is not just about social status. The Hippocratic oath, which doctors swear before they enter the profession, is a pledge to practise medicine ethically and honestly — as well as to keep the sick from ‘harm and injustice’.
We are dealing here with a warped idealism, which is even more dangerous than the more obvious resentments of extremists who work in their parents’ corner shop in a grim northern British town and have few opportunities for advancement.
It is telling that the only profession that is more common than medicine among terrorists is engineering — which is even more handy when it comes to bomb-making. Like medicine, engineering is often the most prestigious vocation in developing countries.