N.C. study: "homegrown terrorism" threat exaggerated

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If you have mice in your house, you want to get rid of them, since, otherwise, they’ll get in your food supply, shred things to use in making nests, and crap all over the place. They are a potentially destructive nuisance, and it’s a good idea to do something about them: call an exterminator, put out traps, whatever. What you don’t need to do in this situation is to suddenly think that you are being systematically persecuted by organized hordes of aggressive wharf rats.

That’s the comparison that comes to mind these days when I hear discussions (if you can call them that) about “the terrorist threat to America.” Note that the nearly always-terrified right wing in this country is currently going wild over a scattering of discovered terrorist plans and the occasional, usually failed, attempt at blowing up something. If you want to see how deep the irrationality over this issue can get, check out the comments about an earlier blog post regarding Sue Myrick’s chief of staff leaving to work for an “anti-terror” group that we described as Islamophobic.

Here’s the good news: A new study conclusively shows that the “homegrown terrorism” threat is way overrated. Now the bad news: Hardly anyone is paying attention to the study.

The study, “Muslim American Terrorism Since 9/11:  An Accounting,” was put together by the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security (TCTHS), a think tank of experts from Duke, UNC Chapel Hill and RTI International, a research and development arm of Research Triangle Park. You can read the entire report here. The short version is that the number of Muslim-Americans who perpetrated or were arrested for terrorist acts declined sharply in the past year.

Listening to Myrick and her over-caffeinated followers, you’d think that hundreds of American Muslims are being radicalized and taught to engage in violent acts against the U.S. In actuality, 20 Muslim-Americans committed or were arrested for terrorist crimes in 2010, down from 2009’s 47. The study is full of facts and figures that paint a different picture than the one drawn by various anti-Muslim groups, lawmakers and pundits, whose approach to the problem seems to be “Jump up and down — the world is on fire!,” rather than simply taking a look at the actual numbers. One very interesting fact you won’t see mentioned by the “Islam is the boogeyman” crowd is that, since 9/11, tips from the Muslim American community provided information that led to a terrorist plot being thwarted in 48 of 120 cases.

In the study, David Schanzer, the Director of TCTHS, says, “Is this a problem that deserves the attention of law enforcement and the Muslim American community?  Absolutely.  But Americans should take note that these crimes are being perpetrated by a handful of people who actions are denounced and rejected by virtually all the Muslims living in the United States.” In other words, we have some mice, not an army of organized wharf rats.

As writer Yonat Shimron of Raleigh’s News & Observer noted, the study’s conclusions are similar to reports issued by the Muslim Public Affairs Council in Washington, D.C., which draws on reports from the Congressional Research Service and the conservative Heritage Foundation.  Shimron interviewed Alejandro Beutel, a government and policy analyst with the council, who succinctly concluded, "Overall, there is a challenge out there, but it's not a pandemic."

As we’ve written on several occasions, it’s time to cut out the melodrama. The whole point of terrorism is to have a country’s population walking around scared out of their wits. It has become obvious that, in that regard, the Myricks and anti-Muslim groups of this nation — the ones who are currently pitching a fit — have already surrendered. What’s even worse is that at this point, their constant paranoid drumbeat is actually helping terrorists meet their goal of scaring the hell out of Americans.

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