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As Muslim extremism nosedives, researchers question law enforcement’s focus

A person pauses in front of Stars of David with the names of those killed in a deadly shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue, in Pittsburgh, on October 29, 2018. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

(RNS) — Two reports on extremist attacks in the United States document a marked decline in the number of Muslim Americans associated with extremist acts.

Extremists in the U.S. killed 50 people in 2018, according to a new report from the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism, which looked at fatalities from all groups. Only one of those attacks was perpetrated by someone associated with a radical Islamist group.

The rest were carried out by right-wing extremists of various ideologies, mostly white supremacists like Robert Bowers, who killed 11 members of Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue in October.

Another report by the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security examined Muslim American extremism in particular. Its findings suggest that U.S. law enforcement leaders and counterterrorism experts pay a disproportionate amount of attention to “troubling but rare” violent incidents involving Islamists.

“My overall question is whether these scattered incidents constitute a threat to national security, which is how they’re presented,” said Charles Kurzman, a professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the author of a report from Duke University’s Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security.

Overall, violent incidents by extremists are relatively rare in comparison with the approximately 17,000 killings in the U.S. each year.

Islamist-inspired killings in the U.S. are growing even more scarce. In addition to the one killing in 2018, 14 Muslim Americans were arrested last year for alleged involvement with violent extremism, the lowest total in a decade.

“Domestic Extremist-Related Killings in the U.S. by Perpetrator Affiliation, 2018.” Graphic courtesy of ADL

None of those arrests involved Muslims who entered the country illegally, despite President Trump’s claims that thousands of potential terrorists have attempted to cross illegally from Mexico. Experts say there has never been a case of a known terrorist sneaking into the country through open areas of the southwest border.

The Triangle Center’s report concludes: “The wave of Muslim-Americans associating themselves with the self-proclaimed ‘Islamic State’ appears to have dwindled.”

One reason, wrote David Schanzer, director of the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security at Duke University, is that movements such as the Islamic State group have lost battles and territory and, possibly, their ability to recruit online.

“The incidence of violence by extremist Muslim-Americans rises when foreign insurgent movements are successful,” he wrote. “When these movements don’t seem to be doing much themselves, their use of guilt or shame to compel violence by diaspora Muslims loses its bite.”

In the one Islamist-inspired killing last year, Corey Johnson, 17, killed a 13-year-old and severely injured two others in a stabbing spree during a sleepover. After his arrest, Johnson reportedly told investigators he had stabbed his victims “because of his Muslim faith.”

The ADL report finds a sharp increase, on the other hand, in the number of right-wing motivated killings. Right-wing extremists killed 49 people in 2018, more than in any year since 1995, the year of Timothy McVeigh’s bomb attack on the Oklahoma City federal building.

No killings in 2018, it also notes, were related to left-wing extremism.

The ADL H.E.A.T. Map details hate, extremist, antisemitic and terror incidents around the nation. Image courtesy of ADL

Mark Pitcavage, senior research fellow with ADL’s Center on Extremism, noted that the right-wing extremists don’t tend to belong to larger organizations. “Most extremists do not belong to any group,” he said. “They just adhere to the ideology.”

Still, he noted two groups that are gaining followers. Samuel Woodward, who stabbed a former high school acquaintance in Orange County, Calif., who was Jewish and gay, was a self-proclaimed follower of “Atomwaffen,” a neo-Nazi group whose members are young and violent. (“Atomwaffen” is German for “atomic weapon.”)

Another group, sovereign citizen, also appears to be on the rise. Its adherents don’t believe in obeying any laws, rules or regulations that it thinks are part of a government conspiracy.

The ADL report recommends a federal law recognizing domestic terrorism as a crime, but researchers on both reports said anti-bias educational programs were important deterrents.

“Community strengthening around our core values of embracing difference is ultimately the only viable response,” said Kurzman. “We have to double down on our core values in response to these violent threats from whatever ideology.”

About the author

Yonat Shimron

Yonat Shimron is an RNS National Reporter and Senior Editor.

19 Comments

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  • New York just recently made history by being the first duty to charge a white supremacist murderer with terrorism.

  • At times in the past, many of us have thought that federal law against domestic terrorism and hate crimes would be helpful over the top of only state-level law and law enforcement. But, in the present era of Trumpian control over the feds, that supposition is probably a misplaced hope or expectation. Tone at the top matters. When the Attorney General’s office is a series of cranks and the entire Justice Department is put into handcuffs except for the priorities of Conservatism Incorporated, well, the feds may no longer be helpful (if not worse).

  • I am not even sure if right wing extremists are responsible for the Jewish killings or the one in Las Vegas where an estimated 50 to 100 were killed. What throws suspicion is that the Media dropped these killings within a week or so after they took place. It is almost as if the Media wanted public attention but not that much public attention.

  • One could make the argument that the parkland kids were killed by extremists who think that owning as many guns of whatever type you is really what the founding fathers meant by a well-regulated militia.

  • Nazi apologist doesn’t want to discuss right wing extremists. How unsurprising.

    Sorry Buddy but the murderers here openly admit to extreme right wing beliefs here.

  • Sascha Baron Cohen put on a funny disguise and went to a small town in the United States to tell the residents of a plan to invest hundreds of millions of dollars into the local economy. The townsfolk were excited by the prospect until they found out the plan involved the construction of an enormous mosque.

    When the townsfolk complained about terrorists, Cohen told them that the worshippers would be well protected from terrorist attacks against them.
    https://boingboing.net/2019/01/18/sasha-baron-cohen-in-disguise.html?_ga=2.263665284.903268295.1548274570-1756174886.1535739405

  • Maybe blogs like this one helps especially when it gives information about Islam that Muslims are not aware of. e.g.

    From the studies of Armstrong, Rushdie, Hirsi Ali, Richardson and Bayhaqi————–

    The Five Steps To Deprogram 1400 Years of Islamic Myths:

    ( –The Steps take less than two minutes to finish- simply amazing, two minutes to bring peace and rationality to over one billion lost souls- Priceless!!!)

    Are you ready?

    Using “The 77 Branches of Islamic “faith” a collection compiled by Imam Bayhaqi as a starting point. In it, he explains the essential virtues that reflect true “faith” (iman) through related Qur’anic verses and Prophetic sayings.” i.e. a nice summary of the Koran and Islamic beliefs.

    The First Five of the 77 Branches:

    “1. Belief in Allah”

    aka as God, Yahweh, Zeus, Jehovah, Mother Nature, etc. should be added to your self-cleansing neurons.

    “2. To believe that everything other than Allah was non-existent. Thereafter, Allah Most High created these things and subsequently they came into existence.”

    Evolution and the Big Bang or the “Gib Gnab” (when the universe starts to recycle) are more plausible and the “akas” for Allah should be included if you continue to be a “creationist”.

    Continued below:

  • “3. To believe in the existence of angels.”

    A major item for neuron cleansing. Angels/devils are the mythical creations of ancient civilizations, e.g. Hittites, to explain/define natural events, contacts with their gods, big birds, sudden winds, protectors during the dark nights, etc. No “pretty/ugly wingy thingies” ever visited or talked to Mohammed, Jesus, Mary or Joseph or Joe Smith. Today we would classify angels as fairies and “tinker bells”. Modern devils are classified as the demons of the demented.

    “4. To believe that all the heavenly books that were sent to the different prophets are true. However, apart from the Quran, all other books are not valid anymore.”

    Another major item to delete. There are no books written in the spirit state of Heaven (if there is one) just as there are no angels to write/publish/distribute them. The Koran, OT, NT etc. are simply books written by humans for humans.

    Prophets were invented by ancient scribes typically to keep the uneducated masses in line. Today we call them fortune tellers.

    Prophecies are also invalidated by the natural gifts of Free Will and Future.

    “5. To believe that all the prophets are true. However, we are commanded to follow the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) alone.”

    Mohammed spent thirty days “fasting” (the Ramadan legend) in a hot cave before his first contact with Allah aka God etc. via a “pretty wingy thingy”. Common sense demands a neuron deletion of #5. #5 is also the major source of Islamic violence i.e. turning Mohammed’s “fast, hunger-driven” hallucinations into horrible reality for unbelievers.

    Walk these Five Steps and we guarantee a complete recovery from your Islamic ways!!!!

    Unfortunately, there are not many Muslim commentators/readers on this blog so the “two-minute” cure is not getting to those who need it. If you have a Muslim friend, send him a copy and help save the world.

    Analogous steps are available at your request for deprogramming the myths of Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism and Paganism..

  • US Muslims have free access to the internet with no government or imam over reach. This is what they are finding:

    Again and again and again, it all revolves around Islam’s Koran and how its dictates of horror continue to wreak havoc around the globe. USA citizens continue to die to keep this horror in check. And spend trillions of dollars in funding of our War on Terror/Islam to do the same.

    And the idiocy of it all is that Islam was founded by a warmongering, misogynist, ex-spice, literate trader who started his life of horror by conquering spice trading cities in an attempt to control the flow of spices such as frankincense, and myrrh, two spices used routinely in those times to mask body and building odors. And today we have the stench of Islam covering the globe. Irony?

    He and his scribes eventually converted his crusade into a religion to keep his subjects bound to himself and a mythical god, Allah with his mythical angel Gabriel being the earthly connection. The absurdity of it all boggles the mind!!!

  • Yes siree, when I want clear thinking on national security the first expert I consult is a sociologist.

    As with Israel’s security measures, if nothing is happening, they’re working.

    They’re working.

  • List of Islamic Terror Attacks

    List of Killings in

    the Name of Islam:

    Last 30 Days

    This is part of the list of killings in the name of Islam maintained by TheReligionofPeace.com. Most of these incidents are terror attacks. A handful are honor killings or Sharia executions.

    During this time period, there were 114 Islamic attacks in 25 countries, in which 551 people were killed and 785 injured.

    (TROP does not catch all attacks. Not all attacks are immediately posted).

    Date Country City Killed Injured Description

    2019.01.27 Iraq al-Shura 2 0 A husband and wife are viciously shot to death in their home by terrorists.

    2019.01.27 Iraq Shirqat 4 8 Two bombs aimed at a bus and first responders leaves four dead.

    2019.01.27 Philippines Jolo 20 82 Twenty worshippers at a Catholic church are laid out by Muslim bombers.

    2019.01.27 Burkina Faso Sirkire 10 2 Jihadists pour machine-gun fire into a village, taking out ten residents.

    2019.01.27 Afghanistan Kandahar 1 0 The prosecutor for a secular court is assassinated by Sharia proponents.

    2019.01.26 Yemen Haradh 8 30 Ansar Allah members fire shells into a displaced persons camp, killing eight unfortunates.

    2019.01.26 Afghanistan Tala Wa Barfak 5 20 A bomb blast at a volleyball court leaves five dead.

    2019.01.26 Afghanistan Jalalabad 1 2 A girl is disassembled by a bomb blast at a university campus.

    2019.01.25 Somalia Afgoye 6 0 Three women are among six people at a market gunned down by Sharia extremists.

    2019.01.25 Mali Douentza 2 1 Two UN peacekeepers succumb to injuries following an al-Qaeda bomb blast.

    2019.01.24 Afghanistan Sayyad 2 4 Sunni militants fire into a playground, killing two people.

    2019.01.24 DRC Beni 3 2 Three innocents are slain by ADF Islamists.

    2019.01.24 Iraq Abu Karma 1 0 An ISIS sniper brings down a civilian.

    2019.01.24 Afghanistan Ghoryan 1 0 A Hajj director is assassinated by Religion of Peace rivals.

    2019.01.24 Syria al-Bab 1 7 A suicide bomber takes out a civilian.

    2019.01.23 Nigeria Geidam 8 12 At least eight people are left dead after a Boko Haram attack on a college town.

    2019.01.23 Somalia Mogadishu 2 3 An al-Shabaab incendiary device toasts two civilians.

    2019.01.23 Iraq Kirkuk 2 2 A suicide car bomber plow into a checkpoint, killing two local cops.

    2019.01.22 South Africa Johannesburg 1 0 A critic of Islamic extremism is gunned down outside a mosque.

    2019.01.22 Syria Latakia 1 14 Terrorists kill a civilian with an IED.

    2019.01.22 Syria Maar Shamarin 1 1 A civilian is murdered in cold blood by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham.

    2019.01.22 Yemen Taiz 1 13 A woman is killed by the Ansar Allah group.

    2019.01.22 Pakistan Ferozabad 1 0 A Shiite cleric is assassinated by Religion of Peace rivals.

    2019.01.21 Syria Hasakeh 5 2 Fedayeen suicide car bombers kill five people.

    2019.01.21 Kenya Garissa 0 1 A woman is injured when Somali Islamists attack a construction company.

    2019.01.21 Afghanistan Kabul 36 58 A Taliban suicide attack on a military base kills thirty-six.

    2019.01.21 Syria Rifqa 3 1 Three people are exterminated by a Fedayeen suicide bomber.

    2019.01.21 Iraq Abu Saida 2 1 Two Iraqis are shot to death by Mujahideen.

    2019.01.20 Nigeria Konduga 1 0 A motorist is slain by Boko Haram terrorists.

    2019.01.20 Afghanistan Logar 10 10 Islamic fundamentals attempt to assassinate a secular governor with a suicide bomber, killing ten others.

    2019.01.20 Syria Afrin 3 9 Terrorists plant a bomb on a civilian bus that kills three.

    2019.01.20 Mali Aguelhoc 10 25 An al-Qaeda linked group attacks a UN peacekeeper base, killing ten.

    2019.01.20 Iraq Khanaqin 2 0 Two local cops are murdered by Jihadists.

    2019.01.20 CAR Zaoro Sangou 13 0 A pastor is among a dozen killed during Fulani violence.

    2019.01.19 Syria Idlib 8 0 Eight captives are executed by Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham.

    2019.01.19 Syria Idlib 1 5 A Jihadi car bomb takes out a woman.

    2019.01.19 Somalia Kismayo 8 0 Eight local soldiers are killed when a group of religious radicals overrun their base.

    2019.01.18 Afghanistan Nad Ali 1 3 The Taliban attack a wedding, killing one of the members.

    2019.01.18 India Shopian 4 0 Four cops at a guard post are cut down by Jaish-e-Mohammed gunmen.

    2019.01.18 Thailand Narathiwat 2 2 Two Buddhist monks are shot to death by Muslim ‘insurgents.’

    2019.01.18 Nigeria Gamboru Ngala 3 0 Suicide bombers claim three other lives.

    2019.01.18 Syria Idlib 15 20 A suicide car bomber targets a rival Islamist group, killing fifteen.

    2019.01.18 Egypt al-Arish 3 1 Three people are killed when Islamic radicals kidnap a religious minority.

    2019.01.17 Nigeria Kamuya 6 14 A group fighting for Sharia puts six local security personnel in the morgue.

    2019.01.17 Syria Hasakah 1 0 A civilian is kidnapped and murdered by a Sunni group.

    2019.01.17 Norway Oslo 0 1 A terrorist stabs a woman at a supermarket.

    2019.01.16 Syria Manbij 16 24 Four Americans are among sixteen patrons blown to bits by a Shahid suicide bomber at a restaurant.

    2019.01.16 Burkina Faso Tiabongou 1
    and on and on…….
    https://www.thereligionofpeace.com/attacks/attacks.aspx?Yr=Last30
    https://www.sacbee.com/news/nation-world/world/article225146490.html

  • Wait a minute, how did they (the ADL) calculate 50 killings by ‘white supremists’ and ‘right-wing extremists’ in 2018 and over 400 killed by said white supremists and right-wing extremists between the years 2009-2018 when the New America Foundation (an organization I’ve seen who’s research has also be used to tout around the argument that supposedly “far-right white supremists” are as much if not a bigger threat than radical Jihadists), they calculate that only 86 were killed by far-right extremists (most of which were white supremists) and 104 were killed by radical Jihadists. See their graph here:
    https://www.newamerica.org/in-depth/terrorism-in-america/what-threat-united-states-today/

    This “study” by the ADL stinks to high-heaven, and it wouldn’t be the first time they’ve used highly politized “research” to advance their goals of throwing people they deem “right-wing extremists” into the digital gulag (i.e. banning them via Silicon Valley).

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