I was browsing a hashtag on twitter (#StepsToReverseClimateChange to hopefully find how I can help myself), and saw a post by someone with this image attached:

The attached image

The image reads:

More than 27,000 Islamic terrorist attacks since 9/11

More ice in 2015 than ever

Tell me again which one is the imminent threat?

This tweet by Steven Crowder seems to be the original source.

Well, I know that the second statement is wrong (Also brought up on Skeptics.SE before), but would like to know if the first statement is true or not.

Is it true or not?

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    I am not adding united states tag as there is no statement of the attacks being in USA or not. – Ave Mar 25 '17 at 15:32
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    The Arctic ice question is deal with here: skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/17695/… – DJClayworth Mar 25 '17 at 16:37
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    I would think they've used a rather "loose" definition of what is terrorism... like basically any violent act committed by any Muslim or person from a "Muslim country". So a robbery done by a Muslim, would be an act of terror. Further more, the West have bombed, invaded and occupied several Muslim countries since 9-11... some armed resistance to this must be expected. It's the normal reaction to an occupation and a part of war - much of it is resistance, not terror. Soldiers are legitimate targets in war. – Baard Kopperud Mar 25 '17 at 18:02
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    27,000 attacks out of 7+ billion people is a pretty negligible risk anyway. How many fatal car accidents were there in that same time period? – Harry Johnston Mar 27 '17 at 1:03
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    27,000 attacks / 5586 days = 4,83 attacks/day. So... no. You can be pretty sure this is bullshit. You would be aware if almost 5 attacks per day happened, even if it was only knife attacks on one or two single victims in some other country. No possible amount of global lie-press conspiration could possibly hide such a massive number of events. – Damon Mar 27 '17 at 9:59

The source for this number is likely thereligionofpeace.com, not a scholarly site. Far-right websites such as Breitbart are using it as a source for similar claims (the number is changing daily, and the 27000 figure is a bit older).

On their website, they state:

[...] we are not making the claim that this is a scientific product.

They also state:

We only include incidents of deadly violence that are reasonably determined to have been committed out of religious duty - as interpreted by the perpetrator. Islam needs to be a motive, but it need not be the only factor.

We acknowledge that a handful of incidents on our list may not fit the traditional definition of 'terror attack.' A small portion, for example, are of honor killings

We usually don't include incidents related to combat, such as in Iraq and Afghanistan, unless it involves particularly heinous terror tactics, such as suicide bombings or attacks on troops sleeping in their barracks or providing medical care to the local population.

We also hope that this list offers moral perspective against so-called "Islamophobia" and other complaints from Muslim identity groups that are petty by comparison.

Their list contains a vague description of each event, but no sources. They say that they provide sources upon request.

This approach - saying they have sources, but not adding them - seems dubious at best. Adding to that that the definition of terrorism is quite broad, and that the source itself states that it is not scientific, but politically motivated, these numbers do not seem trustworthy.

The above should show that the 27000 figure is dubious. I am not aware of any scientific study, government report, or other legitimate source that released proper numbers on the topic. The GTD would be a credible source. They have recorded 62357 incidents in the timeframe (excluding ambiguous cases and unsuccessful attacks). They do not allow filtering by religious motivation, but taking the top 7 (selected by me) islamic terrorist groups - Al-Shabaab, Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan, Hezbollah, Boko Haram, Taliban, Al-Qaeda, ISI / ISIL, Hamas - , there were 10708 incidents in the timeframe. In comparison, the top 5 (again selected by me) non-islamic terrorist groups - Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), Basque Fatherland and Freedom (ETA), Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) - were responsible for 2122 incidents (some may disagree with the classification as terrorist group for some of these groups, but the GTD at least uses well-defined criteria for their selection). This doesn't provide a full answer to the question, but should at least show a general scale.

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    Note that there has been a large spike of terrorist attacks in Syria, Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan. The statistic sounds plausible, but presumably there were also many terrorist attacks in Europe round the 1940's. abc.net.au/news/2015-11-17/global-terrorism-index-increase/… – gmatht Mar 25 '17 at 17:40
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    @gmath As Pres. Reagan said: "One man's terrorist is another man's freedom-fighter." Resistance-groups in Nazi-occupied countries during WWII fought outside the restrictions set by the Geneva conventions... They often used both sabotage and assassinations. Frequently the Nazi-occupiers labeled them as "terrorists" and their actions as "terrorism" - which you can see in the (heavenly censored) newspapers from the era. In the end, terrorism or freedom-fighter, often comes down to who eventually wins (and writes the "official" history). – Baard Kopperud Mar 25 '17 at 18:08
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    @BaardKopperud That's why legitimate sites and researchers provide a definition of terrorism and make their data publicly available. That being said, so-called "honor killings" could be considered terrorism under most sane definitions, and it's entirely plausible that worldwide, there have been 27,000 "terror" attacks, though it's very disingenuous to include them in a statistic that's pandering to Western nationalists afraid of Muslims blowing up white people. A more relevant statistic might be that you've got better odds of dying in a lightning strike or that most terrorists are not Islamic. – HopelessN00b Mar 25 '17 at 19:24
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    @Baard Kopperud: The operative word here should not be "terrorist", but "jihadist", as that speaks to the motive, which is the relevant factor, not the particular tactic used. – jamesqf Mar 25 '17 at 20:56
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    @jamesqf I would disagree. If a jihadist organization performs a legitimate military operation in accordance with the laws of war against a legitimate military target, I don't see why that should be counted in the context of this question. On the other hand, just because the Nazis called resistance fighters terrorists, that definition should obviously not be taken for granted (but it falls outside the timeframe anyways). Defining terrorism is difficult, and the term is often politicized, but that doesn't mean that any effort to create a reasonable scientific definition is doomed. – tim Mar 25 '17 at 23:01

Those numbers are plausible but misleading. Islamic terrorist attacks are certainly a big threat if you live in a Middle-Eastern country with major terrorist presence (although typically not the biggest threat since these tend to be the countries which have a power vacuum due to some ongoing conflict, such as a civil war). They are a minor problem in the US, which is the political context this claim is usually made in.

For a more reputable data source, you can look at the Global Terrorism Database, which is not searchable by type of terrorism, but tracks about 70.000 incidents in the given period (the number might change depending on what definition of "terrorism" you use). However, only 227 of those are within the Unites States. Here is a map of all terror attacks in 2015 (the last year that the GTD has processed); it is immediately obvious that the majority happen in a small number or conflict areas in less developed countries. map of 2015 terrorist attacks

The database tracks 38 terror incindents in the US in 2015. Of those, 8 are far-right attacks against muslims; 7 were islamic terrorist attacks; 5 were attacks against abortion clinics; 5 were far-right attacks against non-muslims (blacks etc); 1 attack was done by animal rights activists; 1 by anarchists; 11 attacks (mostly against churches) had no identifiable motivation (beyond, sometimes, mental illness). If you count fatalities (numbers include the perpetrators), then islamist attacks caused 25 deaths, far-right attacks 15, abortion-related attacks 3, other 1.

Compare that with the number of mass shooting fatalities in 2015 (369 per the Gun Violence Archive; there is some overlap), and the results suggest that the islamic terrorist threat is about a magnitude smaller than the mass shooter threat, and about the same size as the far-right terrorist threat. Comparing with the threat of global warming would not be possible without lots of hypotheticals so I won't even try that, but the comparisons with other violence-related threats suggest that islamic terrorism in the US, while not negligible, definitely isn't something that should top your concern list.

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    +1 While this doesn't really answer the question as asked, it provides important context and answers an implicit claim, which is always important. – tim Mar 26 '17 at 9:06
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    The argument that the claim is "misleading" here comes from an extremely US-centric perspective (bizarrely so, given that the answerer is not an American). "Yes, the number is roughly accurate, but it's misleading because it was only far away brown people being killed, not Americans" is a strange response to a post that didn't in any way claim that the victims were Americans. – Mark Amery Mar 27 '17 at 13:11
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    Well, it is in reference to the twin towers, which was the start of the 'count' referred to. That's a pretty American start point. But more generally - the key question is "what is terrorism" - the hotspots above are Syria, Afghanistan, Nigeria and Yemen. Counting 'terrorist incidents' seems to downplay the scope of the conflict. – Sobrique Mar 27 '17 at 13:54
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    Another start point is that the original image questions the importance of climate change - another "Americanism". – pipe Mar 27 '17 at 20:14
  • @MarkAmery The quote includes the term "imminent threat". That requires a subject who is threatened (and threatened imminently). Since no such subject is identified explicitly by the claim, respondents are (unfortunately) left to fill in the gap. I don't want to dispute your disagreement with the choice of that subject; I just want to point out that some choice has to be made in order to respond to the claim. – Josh Caswell Mar 28 '17 at 12:42

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