This article claims that Muslims are 25 times more likely to commit terrorist attacks than non-Muslims. Are the claims of the article at all accurate?

In addition is the graph linked in the article of deaths from extremist attacks an accurate representation of deaths caused by Muslim and non Muslim extremist attacks?

  • 5
    @Sklivvz while I admit i'm skeptical of motives of the ones making the claim It's best to focus on the facts without speculating on motives behind them. It will either be proven correct or not by fact checking. I have my own personal suspicions for what the validity will end up being proven as, but we have to wait and see what actual studies can prove. Who knows I could be proven wrong, though I admit I would be rather surprised if I were in this case.
    – dsollen
    Oct 28, 2016 at 18:40
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    @Sklivvz it's discriminatory but not racist. Muslims can be any race.
    – DavePhD
    Oct 28, 2016 at 18:47
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    @Sklivvz Sociological questions are no more racist than mathematical ones. I suspect you think the answer to the question at hand is false. Then say so. Speak. Discuss. Act. Debate. Refute. Contest. But don't just vomit me your PC "racist" bull and then turn your brain off like the discussion is over. If Muslims are peaceful, prove it (I agree, mostly). Purported facts aren't racist or not racist, they are TRUE or FALSE. Take a stand. Think. Prove me wrong. But don't regurgitate your PC displeasure/offense, because displeasure/offense is an emotion, not an idea, not a thought.
    – Rex Butler
    Nov 1, 2016 at 3:59
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    @Sklivvz Phrasing in terms of probability still doesn't make it racist. For example: if someone asked "are black people x times more likely to be shot by police" it would be perfectly fair to post an answer citing stats based on past events and anyone coming in and claiming that we can't make any statement about the future shootings by police would be being.... unhelpful to the discussion. The same principle applies here.
    – Murphy
    Nov 1, 2016 at 10:48
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    @Sklivvz your position is that of filtering what statements may be considered based on what is ideologically acceptable rather than on what might be true/false. Perhaps we should reject any questions that question the greatness of the party and dear leader if we're going to go down that road.
    – Murphy
    Nov 1, 2016 at 13:47

1 Answer 1


There are numerous issues with the statement in the OP.

The New York Times is getting its information from the article http://www.newamerica.org/in-depth/terrorism-in-america/what-threat-united-states-today/#americas-layered-defenses

That source leaves out the following fatal, confirmed terrorism, US incidents found in the terrorism database (as well as other incidents flagged as "possible" terrorism):

07/23/2015 shooting by John Russell Houser at theater

12/20/2014 shooting by Ismaaiyl Brinsley

12/18/2014 shooting by Justin Nojan Sullivan "so he could purchase a rifle to carry out an Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) inspired attack"

11/01/2013 shooting by Paul Ciancia at Los Angeles International Airport

(also, if the NYT phrase "after 9/11" on the graph is taken literally, the anthrax attacks are omitted)

On the other hand, the "new america" source adds incidents that are not considered terrorism (or even possible terrorism) by the database, specifically:

-a 2012 shooting of police

-a 2011 murder by Isaac Aguigui and others of his wife and unborn child and two others

-a 2011 murder by David Pedersen and Holly Grigsby of Pedersen's father and stepmother and two others

-a 2010 murder at a Carlisle, PA gun range

-a 2009 shooting of police officers when they responded to a domestic dispute call

-a 2009 murder in Brockten, MA

-a 2004 Tulsa, OK bank robbery

The "new america" article originally just graphed "right wing" and "jihadist" attacks. The New York Times relabeled the ones that were supposedly "right wing" as "Non-Islamic" and the ones labeled "jihadist" as "Islamic".

All the incidents that "new america" decided to add were labeled as "right wing". Of the 18 incidents that "new america" labeled "right wing", 7 were not in the terrorism database.

Other factors to consider are:

  1. The 25 factor is based upon fatalities, not incidents or perpetrators.

  2. Sometimes people have come to the USA to conduct attacks, not all attacks are internal. Just using the demographics of the USA is not valid considering that some attacks are by external persons.

  3. The data are cherry-picked (not necessarily intentionally) timewise to only include the period after the 9/11/01 attacks and before the 2016 Orlando attack.

  4. The statement in the OP article is:

Muslims make up only about 2% of the population of America. If they are killing half the victims of terrorism, that means that a Muslim perpetrator is 25 times more likely to kill someone in a terrorist attack than a non-Muslim.

This statement contains a math error. If 2% of the population killed an equal number of victims as the remaining 98%, they killed at 98/2 = 49 times the rate.

  1. The most recent estimate by Pew Research is that there are 3.3 million Muslims out of 322 million total people in the USA, or 1.0%.
  • 1
    all good. Though I think it would be worth pointing out that the database shows 250 terriorist attacks from 2001 to 1015, just to demonstrate the few you listed were just a tiny subset of missing cases and not the majority of cases. I think it better demonstrates how limited a sampling the graph is. Also your link about NY times relabeling the data doesn't appear to contain any reference to the original data being right wing vs jihadist, or how those terms were defined; or am I just missing it?
    – dsollen
    Oct 28, 2016 at 19:43
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    @KDog The "new america" dataset only includes 9 jihadist attacks, so even 1 attack is significant
    – DavePhD
    Oct 28, 2016 at 19:48
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    @kdog there are 250 terrrorist attacks in the us from 2011 to 2015 accoding to his link. The link you provided includes a total of 9 attacks by jihadists. That's less then half a percent of total terrorist attacks.
    – dsollen
    Oct 28, 2016 at 19:53
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    @dsollen: Did you mean to divide 9 by 250? That equals 3.6%, not "less then half a percent".
    – James
    Oct 31, 2016 at 12:13
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    @dsollen There are 264 incidents in the database from 2002-2015. However, only 24 by my count are indicated as confirmed terrorism with at least one non-terrorist fatality. The article in the OP is clear that it is only considering fatal incidents.
    – DavePhD
    Oct 31, 2016 at 12:52

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