Report Shows Muslim-American Terrorism Cases Continued to Drop in 2017

January 18, 2018

Charles Kurzman, UNC sociology professor and co-director of the Carolina Center for the Study of the Middle East and Muslim Civilizations, authored the report.

A new report by a professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill documents a continuing decline in the number of Muslim-Americans associated with violent extremism in 2017. The total for the first year of the Trump administration continued a downward trend that was visible in the final year of the Obama administration.

The report, published annually since 2010 by the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security, offers systematic evidence on the pressing issue of terrorism. Data from past reports has been cited in Congressional testimony, White House policy documents, judicial proceedings, national and international media and scholarly work on the subject.

Just over half of the 34 Muslim-Americans associated with violent extremism in 2017 traveled or attempted to travel to join militants in Syria, Iraq and the Philippines. Since 2012, a total of 78 Muslim-Americans have been identified as joining militants abroad, according to the report. More than half of these individuals have since been killed or detained.

“During his presidential campaign, Donald Trump promised to root out supposed networks of support for Muslim extremism in the United States, but we have not seen evidence of such networks during his first year in office,” said Charles Kurzman, a professor of sociology at UNC-Chapel Hill and author of the report. “At the same time, Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric and policies have not triggered a backlash of violent extremism, as some feared.”

Kurzman noted that Muslim-American extremists have caused 140 deaths in more than 16 years since September 11, 2001. Over the same period, there have been approximately 260,000 murders in the United States, and 267 lives were lost in mass shootings in 2017 alone. This figure does not include the victims of Muslim-American extremists.

David Schanzer, director of the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security, said, “This year’s report calls into question the theory that the defeat of ISIS in Syria and Iraq will lead to greater levels of threat in the West as foreign fighters leave previously held ISIS territory.”

Schanzer continued, “Over time, it appears that threat levels in the U.S. increase when hot civil wars rage abroad, but ebb when foreign insurgencies are addressed.” The full report is available via the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security website. The data on which the report is based can be accessed at Charles Kurzman’s UNC website.

Contact: Charles Kurzman, (919) 962-1007, kurzman@unc.edu