The Institute for Economics and Peace is out with this year’s Global Terrorism Index, and the results confirm what everyone who isn’t a delusional defender of Islam already knows: Radical Islamists are responsible for most of the carnage wrought by terrorism in the world — and not just by a slim margin. It turns out that two-thirds of those who died in terrorist attacks in 2013 were killed by militants from just four groups: the Taliban, al Qaeda, ISIS, and Boko Haram. All ascribe to a fundamentalist interpretation of Islam’s holy texts, and all are radical Sunni groups.
Here are some key findings from the GTI:
– 17,958 people were killed in terrorist attacks last year, that’s 61% more than the previous year.
– 82% of all deaths from terrorist attack occur in just 5 countries: Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria and Syria.
– Last year terrorism was dominated by four groups: the Taliban, Boko Haram, ISIL, and al Qa’ida.
– More than 90% of all terrorist attacks occur in countries that have gross human rights violations.
Although a summary page seems to paper over the religious motivations by ascribing the causes of terrorism to “extra-judicial killings, group grievances and high levels of criminality,” a dive into the report shows just how much religion has had to do with terrorism since the year 2000:
Some 82% of those who died in terrorist attacks in 2013 were killed in five countries: Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria and Syria, which is where the aforementioned jihadist groups flourish. Iraq incurred the most deaths of any country with 6,362 people dying in 2,492 attacks. Despite the common claim that poverty and lack of education fuel terrorism, “Poverty rates, levels of schools attendance and most economic factors have no association with terrorism,” the GTI found.
The GTI does not include a demographic breakdown of the victims of these terror attacks, but given that four-fifths occurred in Muslim-majority countries, it’s a safe bet that high number, if not a majority of those victims were Muslims themselves. As much as some defenders want to explain the terrorism it inspires strictly as a reaction to U.S. and Western foreign policy, such an explanation ironically ignores the plight of the very people that defenders of Islam are actually claiming to defend.
Another refrain that’s gained traction among defenders is that according to Robert Pape at the University of Chicago’s Project on Security and Terrorism, “over 90 percent of suicide attacks worldwide are now anti-American. The vast majority of suicide terrorists hail from the local region threatened by foreign troops.” But since 2000, only 5% of terror attacks have been of the suicide variety. Furthermore, subsequent developments in particular cast doubt on the viability of this thesis moving forward. If suicide terror attacks are simply a reaction to a foreign force, we would expect to see a sharp decline in such attacks in Iraq after the withdrawal of U.S. combat soldiers in December 2011.
Instead, we see this:
Additionally, the huge decrease in terror attacks in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza cannot be explained in terms of an Israel withdrawal from the occupied territories. For one thing, this decline predates Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from Gaza in 2005. For another, Israeli settlement activity has actually expanded in the West Bank since suicide attacks reached a peak in 2002. These are likely attributable to Israel’s stepped up security measures, including the construction of its controversial West Bank barrier, which has provided the country with more security, but at the expense of West Bank residents’ freedom of movement.
The havoc caused by ISIS in 2014 means there is a good chance that number of terror attacks in Iraq and Syria this year have exceeded or will exceed last year’s tallies. Here again, the targets of terror aren’t occupying armies, but native Iraqis and Syrians (and the occasional journalist or aid worker) from a variety of different ethnic, cultural, and religious backgrounds. This is because for Salafist groups like ISIS, it isn’t enough to be a Muslim. One must be their kind of Muslim, and not say, unfortunate truck drivers who are shot execution style merely for being Shiites.
The problem of radical Islam will not be solved by the West, and continued interventions in Muslim majority countries can only serve as a helpful recruiting tool for terrorist groups. If there is to be a solution, the GTI notes that it will have to be of an internal nature:
“To counteract the rise of religious extremism, moderate Sunni theologies need to be cultivated by credible forces within Islam. The current political context underscores the importance of moderate Sunni countries and not outside influences leading such a response.”
When this cultivation of moderate theologies will occur is anyone’s guess. That it must take place, however, is beyond question. If it fails to materialize, the number of terror victims will only increase, and it may be Muslims who suffer more than any other group.