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Tuesday, January 13, 2015

How many Muslim extremists are there? Just the facts, please.

ACT! for America's president and founder Brigitte Gabriel is a media favorite of conservatives concerned about terrorism. 
How many Muslim extremists are there? Just the facts, please.
How many Muslim extremists are there? Just the facts, please.
And in the wake of the attacks on the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo, a video of Ms. Gabriel's comments  about "Muslims dedicated to the destruction of Western civilization" at a Heritage Foundation forum last June has been revived by bloggers and passed around social media. 
"The radicals are estimated to be between 15 to 25 percent, according to all intelligence services around the world," she said, in part, when asked by an American University head-scarf wearing law student about waging an ideological war with Muslims.  "You're looking at 180 million to 300 million people dedicated to the destruction of Western civilization..." Gabriel said.

Is this figure accurate? 
Not according to Angel Rabasa, who is a senior political scientist at the RAND corporation. While conducting research for his latest book, "Euro Jihad," he found that Western European intelligence agencies estimate that less than one percent of the Muslim population living within their borders are at risk for becoming radicals.
Working off of these intelligence estimates, if you were to take one percent of the Muslim populations of Germany, France, and the United Kingdom, by the most liberal of estimates, less than 125,000 Muslims living in these combined countries would be prone to radicalization. Add that to the possible radical population across the rest of Europe and the sum is approximately 325,000 Muslims are at risk of becoming radical. 

The key qualifier is "at risk of becoming radical."  That doesn't meant that they will pick up a gun or start plotting an attack.
"Radicalization and violent extremism are two different things," Mr. Rabasa says. "Violent extremist behavior only comes about if a radicalized individual falls in with a circle of people who are open to using violence." 
According to Rabasa, a "radical" Muslim could also be an individual who belongs to an Islamist organization that is advocating for a Sharia legal system, but does not embrace violence to bring this to fruition.
Calls and emails to Act! for America to clarify Gabriel's statistics and statements were not returned. 
Perhaps a better indicator to evaluate what percentage of the European Muslims are extremists prone to violence may be to count the number of people who have gone off to fight in Syria and Iraq for any one the thousand-plus factions on the ground, most notably the Islamic State, because these individuals are engaging in combat and are receiving training. 

The Christian Science Monitor reported in September that the top European Union counter-terrorism official estimated that roughly 3,000 Europeans had gone to fight in Syria, although this figure also counted the dead and was later reduced to 2,000. American officials originally said there were more than 100 Americans who had gone to Syria. But the FBI chief has since reduced it to 12 confirmed people. 
Western governments have been warning of returning fighters from Syria and their capability to launch terror attacks, so it would be plausible to conclude that returning jihadis , assuming they are not picked up by law enforcement at the European point of entry first, would be some of the most prone to engage in violent extremism and attempt to recruit other radicals.
Even if that figure was 3,000 and even if that represented only a tenth of all the Muslims in Europe "dedicated to the destruction of Western civilization," that would put the figure at 0.01 percent of Europe's Muslims, not between 15 and 25 percent as Gabriel claims.

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