No American Muslim Terrorists? [A Reply to Spencer Ackerman]
by Daniel Pipes
Translations of this item:
"It's startling," proclaims Spencer Ackerman in a New Republic cover story dated today, "how few American Muslim extremists there actually are." The article, "Religious Protection: Why American Muslims haven't turned to terrorism," contrasts American Muslims with their European counterparts, whom he finds have turned to terrorism.
American Muslims are not terrorists? What is Ackerman thinking?
In an article and blog just this past week, I reported on fifteen American Muslim converts who have either engaged in terrorism or been convicted of trying to do so. In a follow-up piece, I listed another fifteen American converts to Islam suspected, arrested, or indicted of terrorism. That's thirty converts. I have not counted the immigrant Muslims and their offspring implicated in terrorism, but here is some information that hints to their numbers:
Or, to quote a conclusion Khalid Durán and I reached in 2002: "In its long history of immigration, the United States has never encountered so violence-prone and radicalized a community as the Muslims who have arrived since 1965."
Applying that 86 percent figure just to the United States implies some 175 immigrant Muslims associated with terrorism. Let's round it off to 200 cases in all of American Muslims who have "turned to terrorism," which strikes me as a reasonable figure.
Ackerman waves these hundreds away as irrelevant: "It's true that extremist messages exist in American Muslim communities, and there have been a few instances of American Muslims becoming terrorists. Those extremely rare cases, however, are far better explained by individual pathology than by rising Islamic militancy due to group disaffection." Yes, 200 persons out of a population of some 3 million American Muslims is "extremely rare," but the same low ratio applies in Europe, where terrorists are also "extremely rare."
In short, Ackerman's premise is flawed from the start; and so, unsurprisingly, is the analysis that follows, namely his claim that better social and economic opportunities open to American Muslims as well as "America's ability to accommodate Islam itself" account for the supposedly benign situation in the United States. Rather, the differences between U.S. and European Muslims have less to do with their respective social virtues than with their Muslim populations. America's Muslims tend to be engineers and doctors; Europe's tend to be factory hands and street sweepers.
Ackerman thinks American Muslims have launched few terrorist attacks; in fact, they have engaged in or attempted many since 1980. They are so little known because prosecutors avoid applying the terrorist label and the media ignores them, but they are there. Some twelve attacks involving fatalities occurred on American soil pre- 9/11, in addition to many others that did not involve deaths or were thwarted. Since 9/11, there have been a number of attacks involving American Muslim terrorists, including:
Finally, worrisome signs exist of a growing radicalization among American-born children of immigrants. Space constraints keep from listing the many instances here, but two recent cases come to mind: Ahmed Omar Abu Ali (convicted in November of belonging to Al Qaeda and plotting to kill George W. Bush; he could be sentenced to life in prison) and Ali Tamimi (jailed for life in July for recruiting volunteers to go to terrorist training camps abroad). Parents worry about this trend; Achmed Habib, who identifies himself as an American Muslim father, wrote to an Islamist forum asking for help dissuading his son from seeking martyrdom as his two brothers did before him.
A tad less self-congratulation and a lot more research and worrying is in order, Mr. Ackerman.
Dec. 12, 2005 update: In the article above, I refer to the Armanious family murders as an instance of Islamist terrorism. I did so aware that this view is at odds with the findings of the police in New Jersey, who on March 3, 2005 arrested Edward McDonald and Hamilton Sanchez, both drug dealers, for the homicide. I did so consistent with my blog, "The Armanious Family Massacre," and my article, "Denying [Islamist] Terrrorism," both from early 2005 and based in large part on information that Robert Spencer reported at "Inside information on the New Jersey murders."
However, after my article appeared this morning, Spencer posted the following update on his website:
Unknown to me, then, Spencer no longer has confidence in the information he made public. Like him, I am unsure to make of this horrid murder. We should learn more when McDonald and Sanchez go on trial.
Mar. 21, 2008 update: For an update on the McDonald trial and other information about the Armanious family murder, please refer to my blog, "The Armanious Family Massacre."
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