Americans Need Not Live in Fear

I disagree with Rex W. Huppke’s characterization of terrorism as a new and increasing threat in his piece “Fear of terrorism as a fact of life” (Perspective, June 25). The attacks of September 11, 2001 did not represent a fundamental change in the dangers Americans face; rather it reminded them of a threat that has always been present. This threat of terrorism is, and always has been minute.

For example, in 2005, the National Counterterrorism Center recorded eight terrorist attacks in the United States. None of them included fatalities or injuries. Indeed, all but three consisted solely of property damage by environmental terrorists; the perpetrators of the other three are not known. Clearly, these statistics give Americans no reason to live in fear.

The fear of terrorism that increased after the September 11th attacks is a fear of so-called “Islamic terrorism.” A brief review of statistics will also show this fear to be unwarranted. Indeed, since September 11th, there have been no attacks attributed so-called “Muslim terrorists.” Still, whenever a major incident is reported, regardless of its credibility, the media and the public rush to conclude that “Muslim terrorists” must be behind it—exactly what happened after the arrest of the seven individuals in Miami—none of whom turned out to associate with any recognized branch of Islam.

When non-Muslims commit terrorism, we do not assume that their faith or lack of faith motivated the attack. Timothy McVeigh, mastermind of the Oklahoma City bombing, the second-most deadly terrorist attack on American soil, was raised Catholic. The attacks did not, however, spark a fear of “Catholic terrorism,” as the public understands that such attacks are not justified by Catholicism. It is illogical for the 19th hijackers on September 11th to inspire fear of Islamic terrorism, as the attacks are similarly condemned by Islam.

Mr. Huppke suggests that the public should learn to blow individual events out of proportion, just like we learned to do with crime. This is not a wise suggestion. Let us appreciate the efforts of federal, state, and local authorities to protect us from all terrorism, and not jump to unjustified conclusions regarding followers of any faith. Then, and only then, can we learn to live without fear.