May 1, 2013
Terrorism Is a
But the Threat to
the U.S. from Muslim Terrorists
According to the FBI,
Jewish Extremists Commit More Terror
than Islamic Extremists.
An FBI report shows that only a small percentage
of terrorist attacks carried out on U.S. soil
between 1980 and 2005 were perpetrated by Muslims.
Princeton University’s Loon Watch compiled the
following chart from the FBI’s data (as explained below, this chart is
over-simplified… and somewhat inaccurate):
Terrorist Attacks on U.S. Soil by Group,
to 2005, According to FBI Database
According to this data, there were more
Jewish acts of terrorism within the United States than Islamic (7% vs
6%). These radical Jews committed acts of terrorism in the name of their
These were not terrorists who happened to be
Jews; rather, they were extremist Jews who committed acts of terrorism
based on their religious passions, just like Al-Qaeda and company.
Note: The chart is misleading in several
ways. For example, it labels "Extreme Left Wing Groups" and "Communists",
but not "Extreme Right Wing Groups" or "Fascists". It should have either
discarded all partisan labels, or included labels for both
ends of the spectrum. In addition, "Latinos" is misleading, as Loonwatch is
actually referring to Puerto Rican separatist groups, Cuban exile groups and
the like. However, as shown below, many of the basic concepts are correct.
U.S. News and World Report
noted in February of this year:
Of the more than 300 American deaths from
political violence and mass shootings since 9/11, only 33 have come at
the hands of Muslim-Americans, according to the
Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security.
The Muslim-American suspects or perpetrators
in these or other attempted attacks fit no demographic profile - only 51
of more than 200 are of Arabic ethnicity. In 2012, all but one of the
nine Muslim-American terrorism plots uncovered were halted in early
That one, an attempted bombing of a Social
Security office in Arizona, caused no casualties.
reported the same month:
Since 9/11, [Charles Kurzman, Professor of
Sociology at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, writing for
the Triangle Center on Terrorism and National Security] and his team
tallies, 33 Americans have died as a result of terrorism launched by
their Muslim neighbors.
During that period, 180,000 Americans were
murdered for reasons unrelated to terrorism.
In just the past year, the
mass shootings that have captivated America’s attention killed 66
"twice as many fatalities as from Muslim-American terrorism
in all 11 years since 9/11," notes Kurzman’s team.
Law enforcement, including,
undercover agents," were involved in "almost all of the Muslim-American
terrorism plots uncovered in 2012," the Triangle team finds.
keeping with the FBI’s recent practice of using undercover or double
agents to encourage would-be terrorists to act on their violent desires
and arresting them when they do - a practice critics say comes
perilously close to entrapment.
A difference in 2012 observed by Triangle:
with the exception of the Arizona attack, all the alleged plots
involving U.S. Muslims were "discovered and disrupted at an early
stage," while in the past three years, law enforcement often observed
the incubating terror initiatives "after weapons or explosives had
already been gathered."
The sample of Muslim Americans turning to
terror is "vanishingly small," Kurzman tells Danger Room. Measuring the
U.S. Muslim population is a famously inexact science, since census data
don’t track religion, but rather "country of origin," which researchers
attempt to use as a proxy.
There are somewhere between 1.7 million and
seven million American Muslims, by most estimates, and Kurzman says he
operates off a model that presumes the lower end, a bit over 2 million.
That’s less a rate of involvement in terrorism of less than 10 per
million, down from a 2003 high of 40 per million, as detailed in the
Yet the scrutiny by law enforcement and
homeland security on American Muslims has not similarly abated.
The FBI tracks "geomaps" of areas where
Muslims live and work, regardless of their involvement in any crime. The
Patriot Act and other post-9/11 restrictions on government surveillance
remain in place.
The Department of Homeland Security just
celebrated its 10th anniversary. In 2011, President Obama ordered the
entire federal national-security apparatus to get rid of
counterterrorism training material that
instructed agents to focus on Islam itself, rather than specific
Kurzman doesn’t deny that law enforcement
plays a role in disrupting and deterring homegrown U.S. Muslim
terrorism. His research holds it out as a possible explanation for the
But he remains surprised by the disconnect
between the scale of the terrorism problem and the scale - and expense -
of the government’s response.
"Until public opinion starts to
recognize the scale of the problem has been lower than we feared, my
sense is that public officials are not going to change their
policies," Kurzman says.
"Counterterrorism policies have involved
surveillance - not just of Muslim-Americans, but of all Americans,
and the fear of terrorism has justified intrusions on American
privacy and civil liberties all over the internet and other aspects
of our lives.
I think the implications here are not just for how we
treat a religious minority in the U.S., but also how we treat the
rights & liberties of everyone."
And so do
Indeed - as we’ve previously documented - you’re
likely to die from brain-eating parasites, alcoholism, obesity, medical errors, risky sexual
behavior or just about anything other than terrorism.
Kurzman told the Young Turks in February that
Islamic terrorism "doesn’t even count for 1 percent" of the 180,000 murders in the US since
While the Boston marathon bombings were
horrific, a top terrorism expert says that the Boston attack was
more like Columbine than 9/11, and that the bombers are "murderers not
overwhelming majority of mass shootings
were by non-Muslims. (This is
true in Europe, as well as in the U.S.)
However you classify them - murder or terrorism
- the Boston bombings occurred after all of the statistical
analysis set forth above. Moreover, different groups have different agendas
about how to classify the perpetrators
Note: For example,
liberal Mother Jones and conservative Breitbart disagree on how many of
the perpetrators of terror attacks can properly be classified as right wing
So we decided to look at the most current
statistics for ourselves, to do an objective numerical count not
driven by any agenda.
Specifically, we reviewed all of the terrorist
attacks on U.S. soil as documented by the National Consortium for the Study
of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) (2012).
Database, as retrieved from http://www.start.umd.edu/gtd.
The START Global Terrorism Database
spans from 1970 through 2012 (and will be updated from year-to-year),
and - as of this writing - includes 104,000 terrorist incidents. As such, it
is the most comprehensive open-source database open to the public.
counted up the number of terrorist attacks carried out by Muslims.
We excluded attacks by groups which are
obviously not Muslims, such as the,
We counted attacks by,
Black American Moslems,
...or anyone who even remotely sounded Muslim…
for example anyone from Palestine, Lebanon or any other Arab or Muslim
country, or any name including anything sounding remotely Arabic or
Indonesian (like "Al" anything or "Jamaat" anything).
If we weren’t sure what the person’s affiliation
was, we looked up the name of the group to determine whether it could in any
way be connected to Muslims.
Based on our review of the approximately
2,400 terrorist attacks on U.S. soil contained within the START
database, we determined that approximately 60 were carried
out by Muslims.
In other words, approximately
2.5% of all terrorist attacks on U.S. soil between 1970
and 2012 were carried out by Muslims.* This is a tiny proportion of all
Boston marathon bombing was not
included in this analysis, as START has not yet updated its database to
include 2013 terrorist attacks. 3 people died in the Boston attack. While
tragic, we are confident that non-Muslims killed more than 3 during this
We determined that approximately 118 of the
terror attacks - or
4.9% - were carried out by Jewish groups such as,
This is almost twice the percentage
of Islamic attacks within the United States. In addition, there were
approximately 168 attacks - or
7% - by anti-abortion activists, who tend to be Christian.
Fuerzas Armadas de Liberacion Nacional - a
Puerto Rican paramilitary organization - carried out more than
120 bomb attacks on U.S. targets between 1974 and 1983, and there
were some 41 attacks by Cuban exiles, and a number of attacks by other
Latin American groups.
If we look at worldwide attacks - instead of
just attacks on U.S. soil -
Sunni Muslims are the main perpetrators of terrorism.
Muslims are also the main victims of
terror attacks worldwide
the U.S. backs the most radical types
of Sunnis over more moderate Muslims and Arab secularists
Moreover, another study undertaken by the
National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism
- called "Profiles of Perpetrators of Terrorism in the United States" -
Between 1970 and 2011,
32 percent of the perpetrator groups
were motivated by ethnonationalist/separatist agendas, 28 percent were
motivated by single issues, such as animal rights or opposition to war,
and seven percent were motivated by religious beliefs.
In addition, 11 percent of the perpetrator
groups were classified as extreme right-wing, and 22 percent were
categorized as extreme left-wing.
Preliminary findings from PPT-US data
between 1970 and 2011 also illustrate a distinct shift in the dominant
ideologies of these terrorist groups over time, with the proportion of
emerging ethnonationalist/separatist terrorist groups declining and the
proportion of religious terrorist groups increasing.
However, while terrorist groups with
religious ideologies represent 40 percent of all emergent groups from
2000-2011 (two out of five), they only account for seven percent of
groups over time.
Similarly, a third study by the National
Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism Religion
religion alone is not a key factor in determining which
terrorists want to use weapons of mass destruction:
The available empirical data show that there
is not a significant relationship between terrorist organizations’
pursuit of CBRN (chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear) weapons
and the mere possession of a religious ideology, according to a new
quantitative study by START researchers Victor Asal, Gary Ackerman and
Therefore, Muslims are not more likely than
other groups to want to use WMDs.
We are not experts in terrorism analysis. We
would therefore defer to people like Kurzman on the exact number. However,
every quantitative analysis of terrorism in the U.S. we have read shows that
the percent of terror attacks carried out by Muslims is far less than 10%.
Postscript: State-sponsored terrorism is beyond
the scope of this discussion, and was not included in our statistical
analysis. Specifically, the following arguments are beyond the scope of this
discussion, as we are focusing solely on non-state terrorism: