Muslim-American Terrorism is Declining

The Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security at Duke University published its annual report, “Muslim-American Involvement with Violent Extremism,” last week. The report highlights that Muslim-American terrorism continues to be on a steady decline.

According to the data, extremism among Muslim-Americans reached new heights in 2015 with the Islamic State’s rise to power. However, the number of Muslim-Americans associated with terrorism has dropped by twenty-five percent in the last year.

Author Charles Kurzman notes that Donald Trump faced criticism during his presidential campaign for his policies, with most fearing a violent response from Muslim-Americans. Among his claims, Trump repeatedly referred to the existence of support networks for Islamic terrorists. He called for a government crackdown on these networks.

Though President Trump has not created his commission to tackle U.S. radicalism, Kurzman says that the study defies the “Trump effect”:

Some of Trump’s opponents worried, and some Muslim extremists predicted, that Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric and policies might trigger a backlash of increased violent extremism. That did not occur either. The number of Muslim-Americans involved with violent extremism continued to decline in 2017.

The document concludes that individuals, not groups, committed the majority acts of Muslim-American terrorism. There is no evidence to support the existence of domestic terrorist networks.

Here are some key findings:

  • No plots identified more than three individuals. The average number of individuals involved in an attack was less than 1.2 in 2017 (a significant drop from 3.7 in 2009).
  • Less than .02 percent of violent extremism between 2006 and 2015 involved individuals from travel-ban countries. Zero attacks were committed in 2017.
  • Twelve Americans were arrested for attempting to join militants overseas, the same number as 2016.
  • Migrant/immigrant radicalization likely occurs in the United States, not prior to U.S. entry.

Kurzman’s report also covers the Trump administration’s counter-terrorism goals, domestic plots, and American militants abroad.

The full analysis is available on Duke University’s website. Previous reports are available on the HSDL.