Right-wing extremists responsible for more murders in the U.S. in 2017 than Muslim American extremists

The number of Muslim Americans associated with violent extremism continued to fall in 2017, and the number of Americans killed by Muslim extremists in the U.S. in 2017 was far lower than the number of Americans killed by white supremacists, two new studies show[1].

According to the report published by the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland and Security, thirty-three Muslim Americans were associated with violent extremism in 2017. This is higher than the yearly average since 9/11, but represents a 25 percent drop from 2016 (which, it is implied, may be partly attributed to the decline of the so-called Islamic State)[2]. Fourteen of the individuals identified in 2017 were involved with plots targeting U.S. soil, while seventeen individuals travelled or attempted to travel to join overseas militant groups. In two cases, the targets were unknown[3]. The report notes that, “in recent years, the plots against U.S. targets in 2017 were unsophisticated attempts at mass murder”[4]. In total, twenty people were injured and seventeen people were killed, while all suspects were arrested[5].

Significantly, this report also points out that “almost twice as many people were killed in the United States by mass shootings in 2017 as have been killed by Muslim-American extremists in the past 16 years”[6].

The report by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) tracks murders by a variety of extremist movements in the U.S., and reports that thirty-four people were killed by extremists in the U.S. in 2017, “a sharp and welcome decline from the much higher totals for 2016 and 2015, but still the fifth deadliest year since 1970”[7]. Following the typical trend (with the exception of 2016, when the Pulse nightclub shooting occurred in Orlando), the majority of these murders were committed by primarily white, right-wing extremists[8]. However, the number of white supremacist murders in the U.S. in 2017 is shown to have more than doubled from 2016, as they were responsible for 59% of all extremist-related fatalities in 2017, up from 20% in 2016[9]. This demonstrates that those in these movements feel “emboldened in the current environment”[10].

The linking of some of the white supremacist murders to the alt right movement also represents this movement’s expanding of operations “from the internet into the physical world”, which the report notes raises “the likely possibility of more such violent acts in the future”[11]. The report also identifies murders by black nationalists as another potential emerging problem[12].

Muslim Americans are frequently portrayed as the primary security threat to the USA, yet, as Shimron points out, these statistics “suggest the level of anxiety about Islamic extremism has far outpaced the actual scale of the threat”[13]. Meanwhile, Johnathon Greenblatt, CEO and national director for the ADL, said, “There’s a great deal of concern about all kinds of extremism, but we need to be concerned about the reality that right-wing extremism is simply the larger share of the murder and the greatest source of the violence”[14].

[1] Shimron, 2018.

[2] Shimron, 2018; Kurzman, 2018.

[3] Kurzman, 2018.

[4] Kurzman, 2018.

[5] Kurzman, 2018.

[6] Kurzman, 2018.

[7] Anti-Defamation League, 2018b.

[8] Anti-Defamation League, 2018b.

[9] Anti-Defamation League, 2018a.

[10] Sidner, 2018.

[11] Anti-Defamation League, 2018b.

[12] Anti-Defamation League, 2018b.

[13] Shimron, 2018.

[14] Shimron, 2018; see also Sidner, 2018.

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Anti-Defamation League. (2018a) ‘ADL Report: White Supremacist Murders More Than Doubled in 2017’. [online] 17 January. https://www.adl.org/news/press-releases/adl-report-white-supremacist-murders-more-than-doubled-in-2017. [Accessed 30 January 2018].

Anti-Defamation League. (2018b) ‘Murder and Extremism in the United States in 2017’. [online] https://www.adl.org/education/resources/reports/murder-and-extremism-in-the-united-states-in-2017. [Accessed 30 January 2018]. (see also http://ww.euro-islam.info/adl-murder-and-extremism-report-2017/).

Kurzman, C. (2018) ‘Muslim-American Involvement with Violent Extremism, 2017’. [online] 18 January. https://sites.duke.edu/tcths/files/2018/01/Kurzman_Muslim-American_Involvement_with_Violent_Extremism_2017.pdf. [Accessed 30 January 2018]. (see also http://www.euro-islam.info/kurzman_muslim-american_involvement_with_violent_extremism_2017/).

Shimron, Y. (2018) ‘Two reports show fewer incidents of Muslim extremism in 2017’. [online] 18 January. https://religionnews.com/2018/01/18/two-reports-show-fewer-incidents-of-muslim-extremism-in-2017/. [Accessed 30 January 2018].

Sidner, S. (2018) ‘White supremacists responsible for most extremist killings in 2017, ADL says’. [online] 18 January. http://edition.cnn.com/2018/01/17/us/white-supremacist-killings-adl-report/index.html. [Accessed 30 January 2018].