SANCHEZ: Islamophobia not based in empirical facts about terrorism’s 'threat'
Opinions Column: The Champagne Socialist
Terrorism is a sideshow, yet thanks to incessant fear-mongering, the U.S. public has now been lead to a very, very ugly place. Now that the Islamic militant group has arisen out of a crucified Iraq and a devastated Syria and has been blamed for mass murders in Paris, San Bernardino and Brussels, Americans are more terror-wary than at any point since 9/11. Yet the mass media’s 24/7 inundation of terror abroad and at home obscures the actual cold, hard facts about how “threatening” Islamist or jihadist terrorism actually is.
Since 9/11, Americans are statistically more likely to be killed by unstable furniture than by a terrorist. Furthermore, by the time you’re done reading my column, someone in the U.S. will have died of a heart attack. A little more than an hour after that, a veteran will have committed suicide. About 100 Americans will have died today from a vehicular accident. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 406,496 people have died from gunfire within the U.S. between 2001 and 2013, compared to 3,380 deaths — including the 9/11 attacks — from terrorism both here and abroad within the same period. In every year since 2001, far less than 100 Americans have died from terrorism. Hell, three women are killed every day by domestic violence.
Even when it comes to terrorism itself, the threat of Islamist or jihadist terror is wildly overstated. As scholars Charles Kurzman and David Schanzer have told the New York Times, “Since 9/11, an average of nine American Muslims per year have been involved in an average of six terrorism-related plots against targets in the United States." Most were disrupted, but the 20 plots that were carried out accounted for 50 fatalities over the past 13 and a half years. In contrast, right-wing extremists averaged 337 attacks per year in the decade after 9/11, causing a total of 254 fatalities, according to a study by Arie Perliger, a professor at the United States Military Academy’s Combating Terrorism Center. The toll has increased since the study was released in 2012. Also, despite all the fear-mongering concerning President Obama’s welcoming of refugees fleeing Syria’s civil war, 750,000 refugees have been resettled here in the U.S. since 2001 and not one has been arrested on domestic terrorism charges.
Despite these facts, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) isn’t clamoring for white neighborhoods being surveilled by the FBI, nor is Donald Trump telling us that he can only assume that some whites are good people. More than 20 governors have refused to accept President Obama’s order to accept 10,000 Syrians who’re fleeing the overwhelming majority of ISIS's violence. The right-wing’s race-baiting and fear-mongering have now caused a slim majority of Americans — 51 percent to be exact — to now favor banning all non-citizen Muslims from the U.S., according to a recent YouGov/Huffington Post poll. The same poll found that 45 percent of Americans favor Cruz’s proposal to “patrol and secure” Muslim neighborhoods. Exit polling has found that some 80 percent of G.O.P. primary voters support Trump’s ban, further evidence of the Republican Party’s descent into being an outrightly white supremacist organization.
Europe’s far-right is also rising on an Islamophobic tide. After the recent Brussels attack, some 400 far-right protestors flooded the streets, and even rammed a Muslim woman with a car. In France, the far-right National Front party led by Marine Le Pen slanders black people and Arabs from France’s former colonies. Then in Germany, there’s the far-right Alternative for Germany party whose leader, Frauke Petry, called for the shooting of anyone illegally crossing German borders. There’s also Golden Dawn in Greece, the English Defense League and the Independent Party in the United Kingdom, as well as far too many others.
Nevertheless, as in the U.S., jihadism in Europe isn’t actually a big deal. In fact, Europol, the European Union’s official police body, has found than less than 2 percent of terrorist attacks in between 2006 and 2013 have been committed by Islamists. The vast majority are perpetrated by anarchists, separatists, fascists and other homegrown — and heavily “white” — tendencies. In December 2013, the Corsican nationalist FLNC carried out simultaneous rocket attacks against police stations in two French cities. In Greece in late 2013, the left-wing Militant Popular Revolutionary Forces shot and killed two members of the right-wing political party Golden Dawn. While over in Italy, the anarchist group FAI engaged in numerous terror attacks, including sending a bomb to a journalist. Spain has its Basque terrorists, and Protestant Britain has the Catholic Irish terrorists.
Did Anders Breivik’s slaughter of 77 Norwegian leftists merit bans on white Christians from entering the U.S.? Did Ted Cruz call for white men to stopped and frisked after Dylan Roof killed nine African-American churchgoers at Bible study? Let’s face it. The only explanation for such a discrepancy is racism. Fear is political, and what makes us fearful is political. Fear and loathing of Muslims as a group is based on simple paranoia and we shouldn’t tolerate it.
José Sanchez is a School of Arts and Sciences senior majoring in history with minors in political science and Latino and Caribbean studies. His column, “The Champagne Socialist,” runs on alternate Tuesdays.
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