Homegrown Muslim terror threat ‘tiny,’ report says

February 9, 2012

The threat of homegrown Islamic terrorism is "tiny" and often
exaggerated by government officials, a leading anti­terrorism expert
said in a recent report.

Charles Kurzman, a sociologist at the
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a researcher at the
Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security, said 20 Muslim
Americans were indicted for violent terrorist plots last year, down from
26 in 2010.

Kurzman's report, "Muslim-American Terrorism in the
Decade Since 9/11," said that compared to the 14,000 murders in the U.S.
last year, the potential for Muslim Americans to take up terrorism is
"tiny." In the ten years since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, 193 Muslim
Americans have been indicted in terrorist plots, or fewer than 20 per
year, Kurzman said in the report.

Just one of those indicted last
year was actually charged with carrying out an attack—Yonathan Melaku,
who fired shots at military buildings in northern Virginia—compared to
six Muslim Americans who carried out attacks in 2010, including Faisal
Shahzad, the failed Times Square bomber.

"This number is not
negligible—small numbers of Muslim Americans continue to radicalize each
year and plot violence," Kurzman wrote. "How­ever, the rate of
radicalization is far less than many feared in the aftermath of 9/11."

The report, released February 8, was based on research Kurzman conducted for his 2011 book The Missing Martyrs: Why There Are So Few Muslim Terrorists.

9/11, Muslims have turned in terrorism suspects in 52 of 140 cases in
which the source of the tip could be identified. The report found that
terrorists do not fit any single ethnic profile. In 2011, 30 percent of
terror suspects were Arab; 25 percent were white; and 15 percent were
African American.

Other important report findings: Two suspects in
2011 received terrorist training abroad, down from eight in 2010 and 28
in 2009. In addition, about a third (35 percent) of terror suspects
since 9/11 have been converts to Islam.

The number of Muslim
Americans arrested for funding or supporting terrorists is also
declining, Kurzman said. Compared to 2010, when 27 Muslim Americans were
arrested for supporting terrorism, only eight were arrested last year.

report makes clear that since a spike in 2009, when 49 Muslim
Ameri­cans were charged with terrorist plots or attacks, an expected
wave of terrorism that prompted frequent terror alerts simply has not

While terrorism alerts are an understandable
precaution, Kurzman said, they also create "a sense of heightened
tension that is out of proportion to the actual number of terrorist
attacks in the United States since 9/11." The Depart­ment of Justice,
which has jurisdiction over prosecuting terrorist plots, did not return a
call for comment.  —RNS