A terrorist under every rock

The news will tell you that terrorism is everywhere, but the violence rarely touches the West

People watch breaking news on the television in a cafe as police mobilize to a hostage situation at Porte de Vincennes on January 9, 2015 in Paris, France. According to reports at least five people have been taken hostage in a kosher deli in the Porte de Vincennes area of Paris. A huge manhunt for the two suspected gunmen in Wednesday's deadly attack on Charlie Hebdo magazine has entered its third day.  (Richard Bord/Getty Images)

People watch breaking news on the television in a cafe as police mobilize to a hostage situation at Porte de Vincennes on January 9, 2015 in Paris, France. (Richard (Bord/Getty Images)

One of the most important lessons of the past year was that terrorists are everywhere and we’re all under threat, all the time. This is the grim reality 15 long years after 9/11—year after year of Muslims attacking the West, culminating most recently in the mayhem of Paris and the bloodshed of San Bernardino. And 2016 will likely be worse.

Except that none of this is true. The world is increasingly peaceful and the violence that is occurring is isolated and rarely touches the West. The overwhelming majority of terrorist attacks occur in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan and are Muslims attacking Muslims. In the past 20 years, the number of successful jihadi plots in all Western countries combined has never surpassed eight per year. You’re more likely to be hit by lightning than be killed by a terrorist.

Yet, you are unconvinced. You are shaking your head as you read this. You know in your bones that terror is “the great struggle of our generation” to quote our previous foreign minister, John Baird. You pay attention to the news and you know that whenever there are reports of a mass killing, there’s a good chance the perpetrator is once again Muslim. On those occasions when you’re right, when it is a genuine Islamist terrorist attack, you know that it’s an existential threat that requires a dramatic and powerful response.

You’re not alone. After the Paris attacks in November that killed 130 people, the Western world was transfixed in horror. France declared a state of emergency, followed by three days of national mourning. President François Hollande convened a special congress of the French parliament, and changes to the constitution were promised as more bombers took off for Syria.

In the U.S., after the shootings in San Bernardino, Calif., Republican candidate Donald Trump swore that Americans “cannot be the victims of horrendous attacks by people who believe only in jihad.” Then he promised to ban all Muslims from entering the country and to force those already there to carry special ID cards. Even in Alberta, the Edmonton Public School Board suspended all overseas school trips, knowing that the outside world was simply too dangerous for its students.

Unfortunately, all of these are the feverish symptoms of mass hysteria. In France, cervical cancer is seven times more lethal than terrorism, but Hollande would be ridiculed for convening a special session of parliament to address that threat. In the U.S., you are 28 times more likely to be shot by a policeman than by a terrorist. But that’s a problem the Republican primaries won’t be debating. And the murder rate in Edmonton is almost twice that in Paris. Although I suspect the pitiable school trustees lack the math skills required to decipher “homicides per 100,000 people per annum,” or the common sense to know what to do with that information.

This is because we are navigating our 21st-century world with prehistoric brains. Our minds are wired for the Serengeti, not Facebook. Early Homo sapiens judged a risk by how often they saw it. Scientists call this the “availability bias.” If every spring you watched a pride of lions eat someone in your clan, your brain instinctively taught you to fear the roar of a lion. If you witnessed a giraffe trample someone to death only once, then you learned it was probably unwise to try to ride one, but you should not allow this to distract you from watching out for lions. After a blink of the evolutionary eye, it’s 2016. Now we see vivid pictures or read reports about terror attacks every single day. The constant availability of these images convinces our brain the biggest threat comes from jihadis. In this context, it’s almost understandable why the Edmonton school trustees acted with such embarrassing cowardice (almost).

This does not mean we should reduce our efforts to fight ISIS and Syria’s Bashar al-Assad. We should increase them—not because they threaten Canada, but because they are destroying Syria. Likewise, we should be doing more to stop Boko Haram in Nigeria—not because they can hurt us, but because they are preventing one million children from attending school.

In the New Year, learn to ignore the primal fears in your brain and relax. Remind yourself that you’re safe; safer than you were last year and every year before that. But remember that others, people in the Middle East and Africa, aren’t. And don’t let your politicians go on about how they’re going to protect us; demand to know what they’re doing to protect those less fortunate than us. Also, please check in with your doctor. Cancer is several thousand times more likely to kill you than a suicide bomber.


A terrorist under every rock

  1. Scott, file this article under wishful thinking. First incident and everything will go out the window.

  2. We’re not necessarily concerned about terrorism per se, Gilmore. We’re generally concerned with an accelerated in-migration of people from a culture that has maintained a centuries-long conflict with the West, and who have an unnaturally strong tendency to turn against us once they’re here.
    There’s a line in an old Robert Redford movie where he comes across a guy buried to his neck in sand. The answer to the query about who did it is “tweren’t Mormons, Ah kin tell ya that fer shore”. Well, tweren’t Mormons shot up Paris or San Berdoo. We all know the odds of getting killed or hurt by a terrorist are exceedingly low. Crazy low, in fact.
    But, the odds of almost any major act of mass violence in the West are increasingly tilted in the direction of being committed by someone from “the religion of peace” in the process of spreading the gospel of the prophet. It’s a bothersome hard fact.
    In fact, it doesn’t even necessarily mean mass violence. The Swedes and the Danes are increasingly concerned about the family violence that seems endemic to Islamic culture, along with the startling increase in rape that has paralleled the influx of Muslims.
    We’re also concerned about the tendency for Muslims to self-segregate once in the West. There are a number of problems that come with that.
    Some of us take the time to do some reading about history, and are fully aware that after the West lost the Crusades and retreated back into Europe, we were able to do-exist reasonably peaceably with Islam. While they made several forays West, we made no wars upon them except to repel said invasions.
    We’re also aware that all of the wars in Europe from 1200AD until 2000AD failed to amount to but a fraction of the deaths that the Islamic occupation of India caused between 700AD and 1500AD. Many of us are concerned that we are exerting a lot of effort to bring in large numbers of immigrants who WILL turn against us in some fashion. We’re not thinking they’ll be terrorists, just people who do undermine our society. Some will be the enemy within, however, even if they don’t commit violence.
    The problem as some of us see it, Gilmore, is that Islam and the West can coexist, but Islam cannot exist in the West, unless one of the two changes dramatically. The West has already had it’s own reformation, while Islam has had no similar upheaval within. Nor has it shown an inclination to.
    Those who advocate for a greater Islamic presence in the West, however, tend to be advocates of great change in the West. That they see Islam as a convenient vehicle for that change is deeply troubling. Why embrace as a change agent a vehicle for change whose influences will be entirely retrograde?
    It’s not that we see a terrorist under every rock, it’s that we see every Western intersection with Islam as having a negative outcome for Western beliefs and values.

  3. This article reminds me of a comment made, some time ago, that mentioned this conversation between a journalist and a Muslim. The journalist asked, “Do you really believe that the UK will permit Sharia laws in the future. Really?” The Muslim simply replied, “Not today, or tomorrow, but we are very patient people”.

    The majority of Muslims may state their peacefulness, but the main problem is their acquiescence with the terrorists. Why? Because of their beliefs in the words of their Prophet, as written in the ancient Qu’ran.

    Thus, the only answer is the editing and amendment of the Qu’ran, such that it conforms to twenty-first century moral thought. I can, already, hear those who will argue, that the jihadis will maintain adherence to the original text. But, as I implied above, a newly worded, peaceful, non-hatred Qu’ran should cause the majority of Muslims not to accept the beliefs of the terrorists.

    This thought must be submitted to the imams … and that is another problem.

  4. A twenty-first century Qu’ran would answer the Islamic problem.

  5. Scott,

    Instead of basing your numbers on actual successful terror attacks, imagine the body count if every foiled attack, or planned attack was successful.

    You misunderstand the problem completely. the issue is not the actual body count today, the issue is the mindset that considers the body count far too low. Most people understand that we will not be victims of a terrorist attack ourselves, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be concerned.

    I’m also 100% convinced I won’t die of a heroin or morphine overdose….it doesn’t mean I shut my eyes and ignore the problem simply because you spout off the statistics.

    the problem is NOT how many will commit an actual terrorist act; the problem (as has been hinted at on this thread) is how many people we keep letting into this country who condone such attacks, even if they don’t engage in them personnally. There are tens of thousands of them in Canada, and we keep letting in more.

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