Today, the N.Y. Times reported that Charles Kurzman, author of a study by the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security, concludes American Muslims pose “a minuscule threat to public safety.” The report found that 20 American Muslims were charged in violent plots or attacks in 2011, down from 26 in 2010 and 47 in 2009. It also found that not a single murder in 2011 resulted from extremist violence by Muslims in the United States.
This empirical study provides further evidence against alarmist claims of a so-called “homegrown terrorist” threat from American Muslim communities. These false claims have done deep damage, and were the basis for Congressional hearings that questioned American Muslim communities’ loyalty to the United States. Yet, these claims are grounded in nothing but bias, stereotyping, and an unsupported equation of belief in Islam with terrorism.
The most effective means for the government to address security threats is by focusing on real threats of violence or on violent behavior, plain and simple. Discriminatory attitudes and prejudiced policies that target American Muslims — like misguided Congressional hearings, FBI racial mapping, the infiltration of mosques, and NYPD surveillance of Muslim communities — do nothing to make us safer. They may even undermine crucial bonds between American Muslim communities and the government that are critical to effective law enforcement.
It’s both ineffective and unconstitutional to stigmatize any American community as “suspect” simply because of its beliefs. The American Muslim community is no exception.