WHICH HAS MORE ISLAMIST TERRORISM,
EUROPE OR AMERICA?
By Dr. Daniel Pipes
This one statistical comparison inspires Sageman, in a chapter he calls "The Atlantic Divide," to draw sweeping conclusions about the superior circumstances of American Muslims. "The rate of arrests on terrorism charges per capita among Muslims is six times higher in Europe than in the United States." The reason for this discrepancy, he argues, "lies in the differences in the extent to which these respective Muslim communities are radicalized." He praises "American cultural exceptionalism," admonishes European governments "to avoid committing mistakes that risk the loss of good will in the Muslim community," and urges Europeans to learn from Americans.
Sageman's argument rehashes what Spencer Ackerman wrote in a New Republic cover story of late 2005, when he found that "Europe's growing Muslim culture of alienation, marginalization, and jihad isn't taking root" in the United States.
But Sageman's entire case is premised on the figures of 2,300 and 60 arrests. Aside from possible other causal explanations for these differences, such as the European legal system permitting more latitude to make terrorism-related arrests, are those figures even correct? He supports them with only a brief, vague footnote: "Updating Eggen and Tate, 2005; Lustick 2006: 151-52 agrees with this estimate." Here, "Eggen and Tate, 2005" refers to a two-part newspaper article and "Lustick 2006" sources a discredited extremist screed. In fact, Sageman's numbers are scandalously inaccurate.
European arrests: His European number is inflated. The European Police Office (Europol) issued statistics showing that, in 2007, 201 Islamists were detained in the European Union (other than the United Kingdom) on terror-related charges, compared to 257 in 2006. Earlier Europol statistics are less clear, but a close review of the evidence conducted for me by Jonathan Gelbart of Stanford University shows 234 arrests made in 2005, 124 in 2004. and 137 in 2003. In all, the total West European terrorism-related arrests appear to number less than 1,400.
U.S. arrests: According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Sageman's American figure is too low by a factor of almost ten. Justice Department spokesman Sean Boyd indicated, according to a Fox News report, that "527 defendants have been charged in terrorism or terrorism-related cases arising from investigations primarily conducted after September 11. Those cases have resulted in 319 convictions, with an additional 176 cases pending in court." Plus, as I documented at "Denying [Islamist] Terrorism" (and its follow-up blog), politicians, law enforcement personnel, and the media are loathe to acknowledge terrorist incidents, so the real number of terrorism-related arrests is substantially higher.
Given that the Muslim population in the United States is about one seventh the size of its West European counterpart (3 million vs. 21 million), using the figures of 527 arrests for the United States and 1,400 for Europe suggests that the Muslim per-capita arrest rate on terrorism-related charges in the United States is 2.5 times higher than in Europe, not, as Sageman asserts, 6 times lower. In fact, Sageman (who was offered a chance to reply to this article, but declined) is off by a factor of about 15.
His error has major implications. If the United States, despite the much better socio-economic standing of its Muslims, suffers from 2.5 times more terrorism per capita than does Europe, socio-economic improvements are unlikely to solve Europe's problems.
This conclusion fits into a larger argument that Islamism has little to do with economic or other stresses. Put differently, ideas matter more than personal circumstances. As I put it in 2002, "The factors that cause militant Islam to decline or flourish appear to have more to do with issues of identity than with economics." Whoever accepts the Islamist (or Communist or Fascist) worldview, whether rich or poor, young or old, male or female, also accepts the ideological infrastructure that potentially leads to violence, including terrorism.
In policy terms, Americans have no reason to be smug. Yes, Europeans should indeed learn from the United States how better to integrate their Muslim population, but they should not expect that doing so will also diminish their terrorism problem. It could, indeed, even worsen.
© Daniel Pipes 2008
Originally Published in the Jerusalem Post, July 3, 2008
Republished with the Permission of Daniel Pipes
Reprinted from the Daniel Pipes Mailing List, July 2, 2008
Article URL: http://www.danielpipes.org/article/5723
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Islamist Terrorist Attacks on the U.S.A.
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Author or co-author of eighteen books, Dr. Pipes is a regular columnist for Front Page Magazine, the New York Sun, and the Jerusalem Post. His analyses of world trends and of forces and developments in the Middle East have appeared in numerous North American newspapers, including the Washington Post, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal. He frequently appears on American network television, as well as at universities and think tanks, to discuss the Middle East, Islam, and the Islamist threat to the U.S.A. and the West. He also has appeared on BBC and Al Jazeera, and has lectured in approximately twenty-five countries.
Dr. Pipes is a Polish-American Jew whose parents fled Poland in 1939, immigrated to the U.S.A., and assimilated well into
American society and culture. His father is Richard Pipes, an American historian specializing in Russian and Soviet history
and serving as Professor of History at Harvard University from 1950 until his retirement in 1996. During the Cold War, the
worldview of Richard Pipes was strongly anti-Soviet and anti-Communist.
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