May 11th 2013

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Articles from this issue:

SPECIAL FEATURE: Academics' venom signals climate scare's end

CANBERRA OBSERVED: Both government and opposition facing moment of truth

EDITORIAL: Three constitutional amendment proposals before the PM

NEW ZEALAND: NZ parliament's same-sex 'marriage' vote analysed

UNITED STATES: The Boston Marathon bombing in perspective

MEDIA: Experts blamed 'right-wing terrorists' for Boston bombings

PRIMARY INDUSTRY: Fruit-canning industry laid waste by cheap imports

ECONOMIC AFFAIRS: Currency, manufacturing and trade policy

CLIMATE CHANGE: Why EU emissions trading scheme faces collapse

OPINION: Defence strategy must not ignore the lessons of history

HUMAN RIGHTS: China's grisly organ theft: their crime, our shame

LIFE ISSUES: Killed for being the wrong gender

CULTURE: Australia's intellectual left under scrutiny


CINEMA: Compelling story of a tormented superhero

BOOK REVIEW The economist who became a Christian

BOOK REVIEW Out of shadows and illusions into reality

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The Boston Marathon bombing in perspective

by Patrick J. Byrne

News Weekly, May 11, 2013

The two perpetrators of the recent Boston Marathon bombing, which killed three Americans and injured many more, appear to have been retaliating against the US involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq.

In the wake of the bombing, a number of US commentators have noted that what is striking is the apparent rarity of such attacks following those of 9/11 on New York’s Twin Towers and the Pentagon, the largest terrorist assault on US territory.

Following 9/11, which led to the US invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, many commentators predicted waves of attacks with a catastrophic loss of life and damage to property.

In part, this was anticipated because of the hostility from radical Islamic groups towards US forces occupying Muslim countries in the Middle East.

However, while just 36 Americans have died from radical Islamic terrorism, in contrast over 260 have died from mass shootings by deranged gunmen, such as the 26 killed in the Newtown schools massacre just before Christmas last year.

Charles Kurzman is a professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina and author of The Missing Martyrs: Why There Are So Few Muslim Terrorists (2011).[1] His Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security has specialised in studying domestic Islamic terrorism and produced four major reports on Muslim-American terrorism since 2010.

In his 2013 report, Kurzman pointed out that since 9/11, which killed about 3,000 people, “Muslim-American terrorism has claimed 33 lives in the United States [with three more recently in Boston], out of more than 180,000 murders committed in the United States during this period”.

He said: “Over the same period, more than 200 Americans have been killed in political violence by white supremacists and other groups on the far right, according to a recent study published by the Combating Terrorism Center at the U.S. Military Academy.

“Sixty-six Americans were killed in mass shootings by non-Muslims in 2012 alone, twice as many fatalities as from Muslim-American terrorism in all 11 years since 9/11.”[2]

In 2012, there were nine Islamic terror plots uncovered with no loss of life, while there were seven mass shootings.

Professor Charles Kurzman.

The US has poured billions into tracking and preventing terrorists carrying out their plans. Security agencies are also working with moderate American Muslims to counter the radicalisation and recruitment of potential terrorists.

To this end, Kurzman has also studied how potential plots have been uncovered and prevented.

In 2011, Kurzman and two other academics analysed the 172 Muslim-American suspects and perpetrators (convicted or still on trial) involved in terrorist plots aimed at US or foreign targets since 2001. They showed that 48 individuals had been discovered by US security and police agencies and another 48 arrested after tip-offs from the American Muslim community.[3]

Kurzman’s 2013 report said that of the 164 plots that have been disrupted:[4]

• 34 per cent were discovered by US government investigations;

• 27 per cent were turned into the authorities by members of the Muslim-American communities;

• 15 per cent were turned in by non-Muslim acquaintances;

• 14 per cent were identified through foreign government investigations; and

• 10 per cent came to light through public statements by the suspects, usually on-line.

His report also pointed out that the number of suspects and perpetrators had dropped from around 40 per million US Muslim residents in 2003, to around 10 per million in 2012. There are about two million Muslim-Americans.

Kurzman concluded his 2012 report saying that “the limited scale of Muslim-American terrorism in 2011 runs counter to the fears that many Americans shared in the days and months after 9/11, that domestic Muslim-American terrorism would escalate”.[5]

In the same week as the Boston bombing, in Iraq bombings killed about 100 civilians in pre-election violence.

In contrast to the relatively few plots and attacks in the US, most Islamic violence is between rival Muslim religious, tribal and political groups in those Islamic countries attempting the transition from authoritarian military regimes and old-style sheikdoms into urbanised democracies.

Following the Boston bombing, New York Times opinion writer Ross Douthat was one of many commentators discussing how the anticipated second wave of major Islamic terrorism post-9/11 did not emerge.

He said on his New York Times blog (April 16, 2013) that “of all the factors that have kept America relatively safe these last ten years, the lack of real domestic radicals (Islamist, far-right or far-left, whatever) looms very, very large.

“Madmen and lost souls and lone wolves — those we have in abundance. But not people willing and able to cooperate in a murderous cause. There have been many such in human history; there are many in the world today. But there are fewer than one might expect in this divided, feuding, polarised republic of 300 million souls.

“And whatever America’s problems, we should take comfort in that grace.”[6]

Patrick J. Byrne is national vice-president of the National Civic Council.


[1]    Charles Kurzman, The Missing Martyrs: Why There Are So Few Muslim Terrorists (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011). ISBN: 9780199766871

[2]   Charles Kurzman, Muslim-American Terrorism: Declining Further, a 10-page report prepared for the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security (North Carolina: Duke University, University of North Carolina and the Research Triangle Institute [RTI International]), February 1, 2013, p.2.

[3]   Charles Kurzman, David Schanzer and Ebrahim Moosa, “Muslim American terrorism since 9/11: Why so rare?”, The Muslim World quarterly journal (Hartford Seminary, Hartford, Connecticut), Vol. 101, Issue 3, July 2011, pp.466-467.

[4]   Charles Kurzman, Muslim-American Terrorism: Declining Further, op. cit., p.6.

[5]    Charles Kurzman, Muslim-American Terrorism in the Decade Since 9/11, a 9-page report prepared for the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security (North Carolina: Duke University, University of North Carolina and the Research Triangle Institute [RTI International]), February 8, 2012, p.8.

[6]   Ross Douthat, “The surprising dearth of terrorists”, New York Times blogs, April 16, 2013.

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