Since 9/11, "white supremacists, anti-government fanatics and other non-Muslim extremists" have killed nearly twice as many people in the United States as radical Muslims, The New York Times
reports, citing data from the Washington research center New America.
Since al-Qaida’s attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, non-Muslim extremists have launched 19 attacks, killing 48 people, while seven attacks by "self-proclaimed jihadists" have claimed the lives of 26 people, according to the Times.
The slayings earlier this month of nine black people worshiping at a Charleston, South Carolina, church by a 21-year-old self-avowed white supremacist represents the latest lethal attack "by people espousing racial hatred, hostility to government and theories," according to the Times.
The victims of the violence have included law enforcement, "random civilians," and people belonging to racial and religious minorities.
The results of a study by the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security and the Police Executive Research Forum, to be released this week, found that even if the general public fears a greater threat from Muslim extremists, law enforcement does not.
The survey asked 382 police and sheriff’s departments to rank "the three biggest threats from violent extremism in their jurisdiction."
Some 74 percent listed anti-government violence, compared with 39 percent who listed "al-Qaida-inspired" violence, according to the Times.
In February, CNN
reported on a Homeland Security intelligence assessment that found law enforcement viewed the threat of domestic terror from sovereign citizen extremists as equal to or greater than the threat posed by Islamic militants.
According to the Homeland Security report, there had been 24 "violent sovereign citizen-related attacks" in the U.S. since 2010. The Times piece points out that "counting terrorism cases is a notoriously subjective enterprise, relying on shifting definitions and judgment calls."
A 2011 FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin
addressed the growing domestic threat to law enforcement by sovereign citizens, or people who believe that federal, state and local governments operate illegally.
While domestic terrorists (Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh is one example) have existed for decades, the FBI report predicted that the Internet and the economic downturn would likely help grow the movement.
The media, according to the Times, have received stinging criticism from some in the Muslim community who accuse the media of hyping violence committed by Muslims and mitigating domestic terror attacks by opining on the perpetrator’s mental health.
"With non-Muslims, the media bends over backward to identify some psychological traits that may have pushed them over the edge," said Abdul Cader Asmal, a spokesman for Boston’s Muslim community. "Whereas if it’s a Muslim, the assumption is that they must have done it because of their religion."
University of Massachusetts-Lowell terrorist expert John Horgan cautioned that perception and reality are often two very different things.
"If there’s one lesson we seem to have forgotten 20 years after Oklahoma City, it’s that extremist violence comes in all shapes and sizes," he said. "And very often it comes from someplace you’re least suspecting."
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