Sunday, September 23, 2007

Myths about terrorists

Alan Krueger lists five of them. Here's one:

4. Terrorism is mainly perpetrated by Muslims.

Wrong. No religion has a monopoly on terrorism. Every major religious faith has had followers involved in terrorism. (Sri Lanka, for instance, has grappled for decades with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, a separatist group that pioneered suicide bombing as a terrorist tactic and hopes to create a homeland for the country's mostly Tamil minority, who are largely Hindu.) Although radical Islamic terrorists are the worry du jour because of 9/11 and Iraq, the data show pretty clearly that the predominant religion of a country is not a good predictor of whether its people will become involved in terrorism.

After all, it was not long ago that homegrown villains such as Timothy McVeigh and the so-called Unabomber were the most notorious terrorists. That makes sense; the vast majority of terrorist incidents are local, motivated by local concerns and carried out by natives. Even international terrorist events tend to be local affairs, most frequently carried out by local militants who target foreigners who happen to be in their country. (Just think of last week's foiled plot to attack U.S. targets in Germany.) This suggests that the likelihood of attack by homegrown terrorists is far greater than the threat of another 9/11-style attack by foreigners.

Krueger follows up with a post over at VoxEU.


  1. Anonymous said...

    Isn't he forgetting the statistics, missing the point, and giving undue representation to a minority? If one looks at the number of terrorist attacks, aren't the majority of them perpetrated by Religious fundamentalists?

    And however much he tries to dress up and beautify it, isn't it a statistical fact that most religious fundamentalists who participate in terrorist attacks are Muslim?

  2. Wavefunction said...

    I agree with anonymous. Just because the phenomenon of terrorism is not Islamic does not mean terrorism at least today is not perpetrated mainly by Muslims. Of course it is and there's absolutely no racism in this statement, only political incorrectness and factual assertion. And one has to think of a reason why there are mainly Muslim terrorists and not Jain terrorists.

  3. Animesh said...

    You raise a good question Ashutosh - why _are_ there more muslim terrorists currently than Jain terrorists? I say that part of the reason is that some factors are indirectly helping the fundamentalists [which, btw, exist in most religions] recruit more people for their goals -- and one of them is stereotyping and racial profiling. For the time being, muslims may be the media's favorite enemy, but these labels change. I am sure that in 1984, people were making the same accusations about Sikhs.

    TIME magazine also recently wrote about how the stereotypes do not work anymore ( more here).

    P.S. Thanks for this post Abi. We desis really need to change our outlook if we are to avoid making the mistakes that the states has made.

  4. Anonymous said...

    yeah... the srilankan government and army which is another terrorist - it has raped and killed more than the LTTE in srilanka is buddhist

  5. Wavefunction said...

    I don't think that one could make the same accusations about the Sikhs because Sikh terrorism was much less of a global phenomenon than Muslim terrorism. Sikh terrorism also was not always motivated by pure religious faith and with a view to automatically regard people of all other faiths as infidels. Also, I think that it's not true that Muslim's terrorists' main objective is to terrorize, not kill. Clearly, they believe that if they kill their God's enemies, they will go to heaven. And in the minds of many of them, people from other religions are their God's enemies if they don't convert.
    The other thing to realise is that alluding to LTTE misses the point because unlike in the case of Muslims, LTTE killings are not religion based. This makes the case of Muslim terrorists much more insidious, because give the LTTE terrorists their land and they will likely stop killing, but the only possible way to stop Muslim terrorists from killing is for the entire world to convert to Islam, clearly an untenable situation.