Threat of Muslim-American Terrorism Remains Low

American flag waving in the wind, cherry blossoms can be seen in the foregroundThe Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy released the eleventh annual report on Muslim-American Involvement with Violent Extremism, 2001-2019. Each year, the reports cover data on Muslim-American terrorism suspects and perpetrators in relation to previous years.

In 2019, the report indicates 24 Muslim-Americans associated with violent extremism, including two people who engaged in violence resulting in no serious injuries. Twelve of the 24 cases represented individuals seeking to support extremism overseas and ten cases involved failed plots to target the United States. A significant proportion of plots was disrupted due to Muslim and non-Muslim community members’ alerts, as well as the suspects’ own statements on social media.

Significantly, the report underscores a number of points:

  • There has never been an attack in the U.S. by a Muslim extremist who crossed the border with Mexico illegally;
  • Muslim-American extremists caused no fatalities in 2019;
  • None of the perpetrators of the deadliest attacks in U.S. in 2019, including shootings in El Paso, Virginia Beach, and Dayton, were Muslim;
  • Muslim-Americans’ participation in violent extremism remains exceptionally low; and
  • Violent extremism is significantly less prevalent among Muslim-Americans than right-wing extremists.

Furthermore, the report does not support counterterrorism officials’ concerns about rapid radicalization. Instead, new data shows lengthening of time between radicalization and attempts at violence. As such, the report’s author, Prof. Charles Kurzman suggests, “[t]his evidence suggests that radicalization rarely leads to violence overnight.” Consequently, while the threat of homegrown violent extremism remains to be of concern, it is clearly a “low-volume, manageable threat.”

For more information on the topics addressed, visit the HSDL Featured Topics on Domestic (U.S.) TerrorismSuicide Bombers, and Lone Wolf Terrorism. Please note that an HSDL login is required to view some of these resources.

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