by Professor Charles Kurzman, University of North Carolina- Chapel Hill
Reviewed by James L. Abrahamson, contributing editor
In this report published by the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security, Dr. Kurzman, author of The Missing Martyrs: Why There Are So Few Muslim Terrorists, assesses the significance of the 2009 “spike” in Muslim-American terrorism. Attributing much of the spike to the 17 Somali-Americans who joined al-Shabaab in that year and calling attention to the fall of incidents to 20 in 2010, the author describes the 47 incidents in 2009 figures as an aberration not worthy of increased security measures and placing restrictions on the freedom of Muslim-Americans.
Kurzman supports that recommendation by noting that only [?] five of the 2010 terrorists sought to carry out their plots and, as in the years since 9/11, intelligence and law enforcement authorities continue to detect most of the terrorists and perpetrators (102 of 161) early in their preparation. Moreover thirty-five of those discovered late were linked to overseas terrorists rather than Muslim-Americans.
Even so, 33 Americans have died at the hands of terrorists since 2001. Comparing that figure with an annual U.S. average of 150,000 murders or pointing out the existence of 20 terror plots by non-Muslims are not likely to strengthen his argument in the minds of readers who favor energetic security measures. Had Faisal Shahzad, the New York City Time Square bomber, for example, not botched the detonation of his bomb, he might have killed several thousand people and made it difficult for anyone to accept Kurzman’s rosy view of the 2010 decline in the number of attacks. Shahzad’s failure, moreover, resulted from good fortune [luck?], not from energetic security measures.
The author also acknowledged that past behavior indicates that Muslim-Americans, only 1% of the U.S. population, represent a greater threat of terrorism than non-Muslims. More reassuring news is that about forty percent of the time authorities learned about possible U.S. attacks from members of the Muslim-American community, sometimes in response to suspicious activity and other times when family members reported a relative had gone missing overseas. Even so, short of successful Muslim-American efforts to reform Islam as practiced in the U.S., the threat of Islamist terror will likely persist, requiring energetic countermeasures for some time.