Islam and the Paris Attacks: A Look at the Stats

On the evening of Friday, November 13th, Islamic terrorists launched several coordinated attacks in the city of Paris that included shootings, explosions, and the taking and execution of hostages. According to police reports at least 160 people have died. As a result the French President has announced a state of emergency and the closure of France’s borders.

In reaction to the attacks many have taken to social media to express their sorrow and condolences for the victims, with #PrayForParis and #ParisAttacks trending on twitter. By now it’s clear that the perpetrators of this attack were Muslim, and according to witnesses, expressed affiliation with ISIS.

Predictably, the enemies of Europe have taken the time to declare their shock and horror towards the idea that humanity would commit such heinous attacks or to remind us all that Islam is not to blame because #TerrorismHasNoReligion. According to them, we all need to be reminded that if we’re to blame anyone it should be humanity as a whole rather than any particular portion of it, and that if we are faced with the fact that these attackers just happen to be Muslim, that terrorism certainly has no association with any particular religion (well, except maybe White Christians).

Right, of course. Because none of us have ever met a Muslim who is a terrorist, and as the BBC tells us, the vast majority of Muslims are good people who oppose terrorism and extremism just as much as any of us. Any association between Muslims and terrorism, real or perceived, is due to the small radical Muslim minority. After all, how could you judge 1.4 billion people on the actions of a few? Oh, and by the way, have you forgotten about Hitler and the Crusades?

In this post I will provide an overview of the relevant polling data to gain insight into the question of the prevalence of Muslim radicalism in the West and around the world. But be warned: the following facts have been known to induce Islamophobia.

In 2013 Pew Research published the results of a massive worldwide survey on the attitudes of the Muslim world towards various social, religious, and political issues [1]. Among Muslims in the South Asian, North African, and Middle Eastern countries surveyed, 22% agree that attacks against civilians in defense of Islam can be often/sometimes justified, 60% favor stoning as a punishment for adultery, 53% favor the death penalty for leaving Islam, and 62% believe that killing a female family member who has engaged in premarital sex or adultery can be justified to protect the family’s honor.

That’s right, nearly two thirds of Muslims favor stoning as a punishment for adultery and honor killings of women who have sex outside of marriage. But I wonder how many Muslims engage in manspreading on the subway?

Clearly then, the cultural background from which Europe is receiving its Muslim population is no strange land to radical Islamic beliefs. But so what if nearly 1 in 4 Muslims endorse the use of suicide bombings against civilians in the defense of Islam? That’s not exactly the same thing as being a terrorist and maybe this is a belief only held by the faraway Muslims who could never hurt us. No need to be concerned, right?

Nope. Using polling data from a 2006 survey conducted by Pew Research, we see that terrorism receives widespread support from Muslims in Europe [2]. In the UK 24% of Muslims believe that violence against civilians in the defense of Islam is justifiable, in France 35% hold this view, in Germany it’s 13%, and in Spain it’s 25%.

And it gets worse when we look into specifics. Just a few weeks after the July 7th bombings in London that killed 52 people, YouGov conducted a poll which found that 6% of UK Muslims believed that the terrorist attack was justified and a further 24% stated that they had sympathy with the feelings and motives of those who carried out the attack [3]. By the way, that 6% translates into 150,000 Muslims living in the UK who believe that the July 7th bombings were justified.

In another survey, this time conducted by the UK think-tank Policy Exchange in 2007, it was found that among Muslims aged 16-24, thirteen percent stated that they admired organizations like Al-Qaeda who are prepared to fight the West [4]. So that comes out to 1 in 8 Muslims in your class willing to openly admit to being an Al-Qaeda supporter. Of course, these numbers are almost certainly higher in reality, given that these are just the Muslims who will answer a random phone call and confess their support for terrorism to a strange organization they’ve probably never heard of before.

But before you start trying to think up some rationalization to excuse these attitudes, there’s one more fun fact! A recent poll conducted in November of 2015 by the Arab Center for Research & Policy Studies surveyed respondents from seven different Arab countries as well as a sample of 900 Syrian refugees in Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey [5]. The focus of the poll was to gauge attitudes towards ISIS and recent developments in the region. The poll found that a full 13% of Syrian refugees admitted to having a positive view of ISIS.

That’s right, one in eight Syrian refugees supports ISIS. The tidal wave of fighting-age males who are flooding into Europe by the hundreds of thousands have a rate of ISIS support that likely exceeds 13%, especially given that the “refugees” who are arriving in Europe are much younger and more likely to be male than those who’ve stayed behind in the Middle East. And perhaps among these “refugees” were the very attackers who tonight in Paris murdered over 160 people. No one really knows how many ISIS members are flooding into Europe or how many will be susceptible to recruitment once they arrive.

But whatever the case may be, it is certain that tweeting #TerrorismHasNoReligion and kissing Islam's hairy ass isn’t going to make this go away or get better, and instead you’ll just be remembered as one of the many cowards who ignored or cheered on the invasion of Europe out of fear of being called racist.