A Non-Starter Statistic: “450 of 452 Suicide Bombers Were Muslim”

ccharleston_church_fireIsrael’s Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University has released results of a study claiming that 450 of 452 suicide bombers last year were Muslims. Reported in glaring headlines by The Times of Israel, this is probably among the most deceiving (and self-serving) statistics you will read about so-called suicide bombings – not least because it makes a couple of very broad, and undoubtedly wrong assumptions.

First of all, the statistic, regardless of what the Tel Aviv University study found, fails to acknowledge that a significant number of ‘suicide bombers’ weren’t classified as such. It also presumes that failure to call hundreds of other mass killers imagined, somehow, that they would do their thing then live to tell the tale – or possibly do the same thing again.

The Washington Post, quoting the Mass Shootings database of ShootingTracker.com, noted last October 4, the 204th day of 2015, there had been 204 mass shootings in the U.S. so far in the year. Most of those, were by no measure, involved ‘terrorists’ as shooters. But many did. One paragraph of the Post story cited several of them:

“Nine dead in shooting at Black church in Charleston. Four marines, one sailor killer in attacks on Chattanooga military facility. Gunman opens fire on Louisiana movie theater.”

What is terrorism? How is it defined? How do those cases, in particular, fit the definition?

The FBI’s definition of domestic terrorism says this:

“Domestic terrorism” means activities with the following three characteristics:

Involve acts dangerous to human life that violate federal or state law;

Appear intended (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination. or kidnapping; and

Occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the U.S.

By that definition, and a similar one for “international terrorism,” relatively small numbers of ‘terrorists’ use bombs. And many apparently presume that they will walk away from the havoc they’ve wreaked. Most, fortunately, do not.

Granted, Tel Aviv University is an what you might call an ‘unusual position’ – where suicide bombers, in the traditional sense, are rife. They, obviously, neither expect nor wish to walk away from their crimes. That makes ‘home-grown’ U.S. terrorists who shoot up movie theaters, child care centers and other venues any less worthy of the title ‘terrorist’ or any more likely, in most instances, to leave their site of destruction unharmed – or alive.

And almost none of the domestic terrorists in the U.S. last year were Muslims.

 

 

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