No rational person claims, “All Muslims are terrorists!” This is patently false. But due to double standards and the frequent, selective and biased media reporting of sensationalist violence, many might think, “Most terrorists are Muslims!” Contrary to the stereotype, this too is false.
The truth is that the number of acts of terrorism committed by misguided Muslims—in violation of clear Quranic texts and established Islamic principles—is only a tiny fraction of the violence committed in our world. That is why Islamophobia, the fear of Islam and Muslims, is irrational. It is not based in reality, as the following statistics from Europe, America, Australia and the world show.
Statistics on Terrorism in Europe
According to official data from Europol, the European Union’s law enforcement agency, in the 4 years between 2011 and 2014 there were 746 terrorist attacks in Europe. Of these, only eight were religiously-inspired, which is 1% of the total.[i] But even the perpetrators of these acts were not all Muslim.
‘Religiously inspired’ includes Islamist extremists, as well as Christians, Jews, Hindus and Buddhists who were motivated by (perverted forms of) their religion to hurt others.[ii]
…. in 2013, there were 152 terrorist attacks in Europe. Only two of them were “religiously motivated”, while 84 were predicated on ethno-nationalist or separatist beliefs.[iii]
Before 2011, Europol categorized terrorist attacks differently, but the statistics paint a similar picture:
Between 2006 and 2010, member states recorded 2,131 terrorist attacks in the EU and only eight were “Islamist”. For those of you keeping score, that means Muslim terrorists were responsible for a meagre 0.3 percent of EU terrorism during those years. [iv]
Statistics on Terrorism in the USA
The Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) documented 2,400 terrorist attacks in the United States from 1970 to 2012. Of these,
…. approximately 60 were carried out by Muslims. In other words, approximately 2.5% of all terrorist attacks on US soil between 1970 and 2012 were carried out by Muslims. This is a tiny proportion of all attacks.[v]
An FBI study looking at terrorism committed on US soil between 1980 and 2005 found that 94 percent of the terror attacks were committed by non-Muslims.[vi]
According to the “Muslim-American Terrorism in 2013” study conducted by the University of North Carolina,
Since 9/11, Muslim-American terrorism has claimed 37 lives in the United States, out of more than 190,000 murders during this period.” [vii]
In other words, American Muslims have killed less than 0.0002 percent of those murdered in the USA during this period. We are safer living among Muslims who have a religious obligation to protect minorities than we are among amoral criminals or citizens who have no regard for the lives of others!
In fact in 2013, it was actually more likely Americans would be killed by a toddler than a terrorist. In that year, three Americans were killed in the Boston Marathon bombing. How many people did toddlers kill in 2013? Five, all by accidentally shooting a gun.[viii]
In the USA, rather than being a victim of terrorist violence, “you actually have a better chance of being killed by a refrigerator falling on you”. [ix] But despite this fact, we don’t have any fear of walking into a white goods department store!
Statistics on Terrorism in Australia
“At home” here in Australia (and I use the words “at home” ironically),
half a million Australian women have experienced physical or sexual violence or sexual assault in the past 12 months. More than a million women have experienced physical or sexual assault by their male current or ex-partner since the age of 15.[x]
According to Australian Bureau of Statistics, in the 36 years between 1978 and 2014, 113 people died from terrorism, but this year alone 730 will die from domestic violence—i.e. on average two women each week—and around 2,500 people will take their own lives.
Statistically, the Australian home is a far more dangerous place than the streets of Parramatta, Bankstown or Lakemba!!!
Statistics on Terrorism in the World
According to the Global Terrorism Report 2014:
…. although terrorism is on the increase and a major concern compared to other forms of violence (resulting in 11,133 deaths in 2012), it is relatively small when compared to the 437,000 people killed by homicides in 2012, this being 40 times greater.[xi]
That is, deaths from terrorism account for 0.025 of the total number of murders, or 2.5%
Statistics on the World’s Muslims
Historically, taking in terrorist attacks committed throughout the world in the last 45 years:
Even if Muslims were hypothetically behind every single one of the 140,000 terror attacks committed worldwide since 1970, those terrorists would represent barely 0.009 percent of global Islam.[xii]
And in terms of contemporary, extremist, Islamist organisations:
With an estimated 1.5 billion Muslims around the world and less than 150,000 belonging to organizations such as ISIS, (al-Qaeda, al-Shahbab and Boko Haram) terrorists represent less than 0.001 percent of all Muslims.[xiii]
Given these statistics,
…. this means that you are more likely to be struck by lightning in your lifetime than a Muslim is likely to commit a terrorist attack during that same timespan.[xiv]
So unless you are a walking lightening rod, you can relax. Or as they say, “take a chill pill!” The overwhelming chances are you’ll be fine!
Notwithstanding that numerically Christians are currently the most persecuted group of people around the world, in the light of the above statistics it is evident that Islam and Muslims are not the problem. In fact, Islam, rightly lived, is part of the solution!
Moreover, while Islamist, jihadist, extremist attacks are truly wicked, we must keep them in their proper perspective. Not only are they a very tiny proportion of the violence in our world, they shrink to even less significance when we recall the many good things in our world. While acknowledging, addressing, challenging, responding to, and where possible, preventing and correcting the bad things that happen, we must also celebrate the many good things in life—good food, good wine, good friends, good weather, good sex, good beaches, good bush walks, good marriages, good families …. the list is endless! But sadly, these goods are too often under-acknowledged and sometimes even almost entirely overlooked, especially when our hearts and minds are gripped by fears that are largely unfounded.
And even when violence may directly affect us or those we love (if we happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time – having a coffee in Martin Place, or walking out of police headquarters in Parramatta, or attending a concert in Paris), as people of faith we must always have hope, for, as St Paul wrote, “where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.” (Rom 5:20)
by Rev Dr Patrick McInerney, March 2016
List of References
Europol source – https://www.europol.europa.eu/latest_publications/37