FACT CHECK: 94 Percent of U.S. Terrorism Fatalities Are Caused by Islamic Terrorists
Fake statistics die as hard as fake news.
This is especially true when statistics are used to reinforce entrenched positions during highly charged political debates.
One particular false statistic -- even under the most charitable reading of the data, it's highly misleading -- is trotted out after virtually every major terrorist attack in order to claim that Islamic terrorism is a big nothingburger.
I've had to deal with various incarnations of this here before:
It goes something like this:
94% of all terror attacks are committed by non-Muslims
Only 6% of terror attacks in the U.S. are by Muslims
And yet another (one that is flatly false, because the data cited is never broken out by sex or race) says:
94% of terror attacks are committed by white men
The data behind this statistic comes from the FBI's Terrorism 2002-2005 report. You can find it on the FBI's website here.
First thing to consider when you see this statistic bandied about: realize the data is more than a decade old.
Including the data from 2006-present will give very different results (results that purveyors of these claims may not like), but since this is the data set they choose to use, I will use their preferred source.
Second, note that this statistic is counting "incidents." The data ends up being portrayed like this:
The problem with using this standard of measure is that it is basically useless. An ecoterrorist mailbox bomb that doesn't injure or kill anyone is given the exact same weight as the Oklahoma City bombing or the 9/11 attacks. So how does measuring terrorism in this way tell you anything important?
Still, after the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris in January 2015, Dean Obeidallah at The Daily Beast floated these numbers:
Following the Pulse nightclub attack in Orlando last year that killed 49, HuffPo pushed this questionable statistic to assure us that Islamic terrorism really isn't a thing:
Arianna Huffington herself circulated the article:
As did Sally Kohn:
It also pops up at Fox News from time to time:
I observed earlier that this statistic gets used to float bogus claims that aren't even supported by the data they cite. Here's one example:
Here's the bad news for those pushing this statistic. Again, using the exact same data comes this finding:
94% of all terrorism fatalities in the U.S. are caused by Islamic terrorists
Keep in mind that Muslims in the the U.S. represent less than one percent of the population.
So how do the numbers break down?
This graphic is taken straight from the FBI's 2005 report (p. 31). So here are some data points.
Out of the 3,178 terrorism fatalities during this period, Islamic terrorists account for 2,989 (94 percent).
All but six fatalities due to Islamic terrorism come from the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and the 9/11 attacks.
For comparison, the Oklahoma City bombing by Timothy McVeigh accounts for only 168, or 5.2 percent of, terrorism fatalities during that period.
Here's another data point from the FBI terrorism report:
Of the 14,038 injured in terror attacks, Islamic terrorism was responsible for 13,067 (93 percent).
So, to put it another way:
Islamic terrorism is responsible for 94 percent of all terror fatalities and 93 percent of all terror-related injuries.
I doubt that's going to get trumpeted over at The Daily Beast or the HuffPo. And it's important to repeat that I'm using the exact same data they use.
As the late Billy Mays would say, "But wait, there's more!"
The "94% of terrorism is non-Muslim" statistic is typically used by left-leaning types to claim that others, usually couched as "right wingers," are false hyping Islamic terrorism as a major threat.
It's also portrayed as: "The real danger is right-wing terrorism, not jihadists."
The crushing reality of the 2005 FBI terrorism data (the data they've chosen to rely on) is:
7 out of 10 terrorist incidents are committed by the Left-wing
You read that correctly. In attempting to absolve the American Muslim community, they end up implicating themselves.
When you look at the data by "incident" -- the measure they use to get their "6 percent of attacks are Muslim" stat -- more than half (68 percent) were committed by Puerto Rican independence groups favored by the political Left (the ones who just got a parade in New York City a few weeks ago) and ecoterrorists.
So to put it another way:
73% of all terror attacks originate with the Left wing
Even more remarkable, when you're counting by incidents, so-called "right wing" terrorism barely registers. Again, the downside of counting "by incidents" means Oklahoma City only counts as one of the 318 terror attacks in the report.
Again, I'm using the exact same data in the exact same way to arrive at this conclusion. Here's another take:
"Right-wingers" aren't very good at terrorism
Let me state categorically that I don't think counting "by incidents" tells us anything about the threat. All I'm doing here is using the media cartel's preferred data set, methodology, and talking points, and turning it around on them.
That said, the fact remains that examining the FBI data by fatalities and injuries is a much more accurate analysis of the data. That data shows that 94 percent of Americans who died in terror attacks during this 25-year period were killed by jihadist groups. I don't have to use "by incidents" gymnastics to get there, as that data is stated clearly in the FBI report.
The only reason the "94% of attacks are by non-Muslims" statistic continues to survive is because those pushing the claim rarely if ever get called out on it or are forced to defend it.
When you look at the actual data, it says the exact opposite of the narrative they seek to promote. If this is the data you're going to use, Islamic terrorism is a serious problem.
This is why you see terrorism data that begins counting AFTER (and not including) 9/11.
In a more recent incarnation, a new set of data is sliced and diced to get the desired narrative:
Well, seeing as again the Muslim community is less than one percent of the population (more accurately, the Sunni population, where virtually all of the U.S. Islamic terrorism originates, is 0.3%), this is hardly surprising.
But yet again, this data counts "incidents," which as a unit of measure of terrorism is practically useless. If you see someone using terrorism "incidents" as a measure, watch you wallet.
And if they want to use "fatalities," be sure to check when they start counting (most likely the day after 9/11 or 2002).
The fact is that 9/11 was the largest and most lethal terror attack in modern history. We saw nearly 3,000 Americans killed in a single day. So in jerry rigging their statistics, they have to exclude it somehow by calling it a statistical outlier, or they have to swell the statistics with hate crime numbers or some other incomparable outside data to put the thumb on the scale as it were.
These kinds of statistical shenanigans leads to claims that are flat-out lies:
Predictably, Van Jones peddles this crap:
Because the data just doesn't come close to fitting the narrative, they have to mix hate crimes or something else with terrorism -- even though most hate crimes would not meet the federal definition of terrorism. It's apples and oranges on its face.
These statistical games all intended to obscure Islamic terrorism and promote so-called "right wing" terrorism even found their way into a recent General Accounting Office (GAO) report, where the jailhouse killing of pedophiles and sex offenders by white supremacists were deemed "terrorism":
Some attempts, like a 2011 West Point Combating Terrorism Center report by Arie Perliger, present data that no one else has ever been able to reproduce and yet still continue to be cited by media establishment outlets.
I contacted the West Point CTC through their website more than two months ago asking for his data set and have never heard a response.
The fact is that globally, Islamic terrorism holds a near-monopoly on terrorism.
And as I reported here last month:
Once all these tricks are exposed, the retreat is to begin citing mortality statistics for cancer, heart disease, car wrecks, and even falling vending machines -- all to show that terrorism shouldn't even be considered a threat.
Strangely, the same people who argue that terrorism isn't even remotely a threat also argue that we're all going to be killed by imaginary right-wing terrorists.
Sadly, that's the world we live in now where narratives at odds with the facts are holy truths and contravening data is condemned as heresy. So when you see the "94% of all terrorism is by non-Muslims" claim, know that it's a false gospel.