Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The many faces of terrorism

From CNN:
[O]ur research indicates that al Qaeda and those motivated by its ideology are not the only sources of terrorism that the country faces and that terrorists across the ideological spectrum from those motivated by Osama bin Laden's ideology to neo-Nazis have managed to kill only 30 people in the United States since the attacks on Washington and New York a decade ago.

While each of those deaths is, or course, a tragedy, it is orders of magnitude smaller than the 15,000 Americans who are murdered every year.

Our study also found that Islamist terrorism has been no more deadly in the United States than other forms of domestic terrorism since September 11.

In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, one of the fears of ordinary citizens and terrorism experts alike was that a new wave of terrorists would strike, some of them armed with chemical, biological, radiological or even nuclear materials.

Ten years later, we have yet to see an Islamist terrorist incident involving such weapons in the United States, and no Islamist militant in this country has made a documented attempt to even acquire such devices.

Yet this is not the case for other terrorists. Indeed, the record of the past decade suggests that if a chemical, biological or radiological attack were to take place in the United States, it is more likely that it would come not from a Islamist terrorist but from a right-wing extremist or anarchist.

Yes, every death is a tragedy. But 30 deaths from terrorism in the past decade looks pretty insignificant next to the 160,000 murder victims or 400,000 motor vehicle deaths in America in that same time period. At least, it hardly seems reason to panic, does it?

And yes, right-wing terrorism appears to be the biggest threat, so the uproar about mosques and Sharia law - the former protected by our freedom of religion and the later prevented by our separation of church and state - seems nothing more than vile bigotry.

There's more:
The data indicate that federal and local authorities are just as aggressive in their use of informants and undercover agents with right- and left-wing terrorists as they are with Muslims extremists. And Muslims and non-Muslims alike are just as likely to cooperate with authorities when they see extremist acts going on, contrary to well-publicized claims from the head of the House Homeland Security Committee, Rep. Peter King, that Muslim community involvement in disrupting terrorism plots is uncommonly low.

So maybe we should calm down a little. Certainly, it's in our best interests to strengthen moderates in the Islamic world, which we won't do by demonizing all Muslims or preventing them from worshiping as they please (and as our Constitution guarantees).

And although Republicans see a political advantage in stoking fear and hatred against Muslims, that certainly does America no good, though it might be naive of me to even point that out. (I certainly see no indication that they care about that.)

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