An interesting article has appeared in the August edition of Foreign Policy magazine, somewhat cheekily entitled, “Why Is it So Hard To Find A Suicide Bomber These Days?”. The author, Charles Kurzman asks a rather obvious question, If there are over one billion Moslem believers in the world today, how come there are so few terrorists and suicide bombers?
In light of the death and devastation that terrorists have wrought, the question may seem absurd. But if there are more than a billion Muslims in the world, many of whom supposedly hate the West and desire martyrdom, why don’t we see terrorist attacks everywhere, every day?
He points out that hard core terrorist organizations also ask this question.
The truth is that most Moslem’s have turned a deaf ear to their repeated exhortations to jihad and martyrdom–which has to be good news.
Islamist terrorists ask these questions, too. In their view, the West is engaged in a massive assault on Muslim societies and has been for generations, long preceding 9/11. This assault involves military invasions, political domination, economic dependence, and cultural decadence — and, they believe, it is reaching new heights of aggression each year.
Islamists offer a solution: the establishment of Islamic government. Revolutionary Islamists offer a strategy to achieve Islamic government: armed insurrection. Terrorist revolutionaries offer a tactic to trigger insurrection: attacks on civilians. These attacks are intended to demoralize the enemy, build Muslims’ self-confidence, and escalate conflict, leading Muslims to realize that armed insurrection is the sole path to defend Islam.
But Islamist terrorists worry that things haven’t worked out as planned. Acts of terrorism have not led Muslims to revolt. Leading terrorists regularly complain: Why aren’t more Muslims resisting the onslaught of the West? What more provocations do they need before they heed the call to arms?
This has led the extremists to conclude that the rest of Islamic people are not “real Moslems”. Those who do not respond to the holy crusade have sold their souls to Satan. They are part of the problem. They are also the enemy. Herein lies a key as to why the rest of Islam has not responded to the extremists’ call to arms. In the end the proposition that if one does not join the jihadist cause, one is sleeping with the enemy is not very endearing. This coupled with the fact that most blood shed by terrorist “events” has been Islamic blood is a big, big obstacle.
There are other issues as well. The extermist, terrorist house is badly divided. Al Qaeda is hated by Hamas, for example, because the latter see the late Bin Laden’s mob as not being truly committed to the Palestinian cause. Global jihad is a bit much for those racked with local grievances.
But by my calculations, global Islamist terrorists have managed to recruit fewer than 1 in 15,000 Muslims over the past quarter-century and fewer than 1 in 100,000 Muslims since 9/11. . . .
Since 9/11, the scale of terrorist recruitment has been further reduced. During the preceding five years of Taliban rule, tens of thousands of recruits had passed through terrorist training camps in Afghanistan, according to U.S. officials. But after 9/11, terrorist training there dropped considerably. In recent statements, U.S. intelligence officials estimate that fewer than 2,000 militants have been trained in the frontier regions of northwestern Pakistan, the world’s largest concentration of terrorist camps. Militants interviewed by Pakistani journalists say that most camps in the region consist of only one to three dozen men. (If the camps were any larger, they would be easy targets for American satellite surveillance and missile attacks.) Hundreds of foreign fighters received training in Iraq, but that route was largely shut down by the tribes of Anbar province when they abandoned the insurgency in 2006. Another several hundred militants are said to be training at terrorist camps in Yemen and Somalia, according to public comments by intelligence officials. All told, there appear to be several thousand Muslim terrorists in the world — a not-insignificant total, but far fewer than a decade ago.
Whilst the threat is real, the number of deaths caused by Islamic terrorist acts is not proportionately high. The World Health Organization reckons that 150,000 people die per day; Islamic terrorists are estimated to kill about 50 people on an average day.
By way of comparison, approximately 1,500 people die each day from civilian violence, plus an additional 500 from warfare, 2,000 from suicides, and 3,000 from traffic accidents. Another 1,300 die each day from malnutrition. Even in Iraq while it was suffering the world’s highest rate of terrorist attacks, they caused less than one-third of violent deaths. In other words, terrorism is not a leading cause of death in the world. If we want to save lives, far better to divert a small portion of the world’s counterterrorism budgets to mosquito netting.
Kurzman concludes with good news, by his estimation:
But there’s good news, too, that is often overlooked: There aren’t very many Islamist terrorists, and most are incompetent. They fight each other as much as they fight anybody else, and they fight their potential state sponsors most of all. They are outlaws on the run in almost every country in the world, and their bases have been reduced to ever-wilder patches of remote territory, where they have to limit their training activities to avoid satellite surveillance. Every year or two they pull off a sophisticated attack somewhere in the world, on top of the usual daily crop of violence, but the odds of their getting lucky and repeating an operation on the scale of 9/11 are long, given that no other attack in the history of Islamist terrorism has killed more than 400 people and only a dozen attacks have killed more than 200. A terrorist attack with weapons of mass destruction would be devastating — but devilishly difficult to pull off, which probably explains why it hasn’t happened.
This does not mean that from time to time terrorists will strike “successfully”. Nor does it mean the vigilance can be relaxed. But, it probably does mean that counter-terrorist efforts can become far more focused and less blanket, frisk-ever-traveller type odiousness. Such bludgeoning over-estimates the terrorist threat. It is a form of official alarmism.
On a broader front, there is evidence that the more violent the jihadi’s become the more their support erodes amongst Muslims–particularly when they kill other Moslems. Just as Roman Catholic and Protestant killings in Northern Ireland scandalised both Christians and non-Christians alike, so Islamic terrorism scandalises Moslems.
The more that terrorists target Muslims, the less popular the terrorists become . . . . After terrorists bombed a wedding reception in Amman, Jordanians’ positive attitudes toward al Qaeda plummeted by two-thirds. When terrorists bombed a cafe in Casablanca, Moroccans’ confidence in bin Laden dropped by half. As terrorist campaigns have mounted in Pakistan, public opposition to violence against civilians has more than doubled.
The jihadi’s succeed to their own failure. The more successful their attacks (particularly when other Muslims are victims) the more they are rejected and isolated.
But there is something more. We have heard anecdotal reports of jihadi violence and murder so sickening and dispiriting Islamic folk that they have opened their hearts to listen to the Gospel of Christ. They have begun to long for the Prince of Peace. It is ever the way of the Lord–bringing great good out of rank evil. It was on display with Joseph in Egypt. It was coruscant at Calvary. It continues today.