Terrorism in the West and Immigration: A Case Study

There has been a lot said about terrorism and immigration, with some claiming that immigrants and refugees rarely, if ever commit terrorism, at least in the case of radical Islamic terrorism. Curious about this claim, I decided to do some research into this over the past week to see if this claim had any merit. You can view my research in the link below.


I based this study of radical Islamic terrorist attacks that happened between May 24th 2015 and May 24th 2017 in Europe, Canada, and the United States, with particular attention paid to perpetrator’s native status in relation to the country he or she carried out the attack in and, of applicable, whether or not the perpetrator was a first or second- immigrant. I would like to note that there were some gaps in the information, labeled with “unknown” if such piece of information is not known and a question mark of there is some information indicating a particular piece of information to be correct, but still does not say it outright.

In this time frame, radical Islamic terrorists killed 434 people, and injured 1,707 with the majority of deaths and injuries coming from just 3 attacks; Nice (July 2016), Orlando (June 2016) and Paris (November 2015).

Based on native status alone, those who were native [in relation to the country he or she carried out the attack in] killed 132 (30.4%) and injured 347 (20.3%). On the flip side, non-natives killed a total of 124 (28.6%) and injured 619 (36.3%), while those with mixed identities (this category was for those with multiple perpetrators of different native statuses) killed 177 (40.8%) and injured 735 (43.1%), and those with an unknown native-status killed 1 (0.2%) and injured 6 (0.3%).

On the surface when only comparing native and non-native perpetrators, natives have a higher death count and those with mixed statuses have both a higher death and injury count. There is another interesting factor when it comes to natives, however, and that is their immigration generation status, be they first-generation immigrants (the ones who immigrants to a country) or second generation (their parents immigrated).

Without regard to native status, first-generation immigrants killed 125 (28.8%) and injured 615 (36%), second-generation immigrants killed 115 (26.5%) and injured 265 (15.5%), and a mixture of the two killed 144 (33.2%) and injured 392 (23%). The total for these categories are that first and second-generation immigrants killed 384 (88.5%) and injured 1,272 (74.5%). Those that were native and not a first or second-generation immigrant (i.e., purely native in regards to birth and ancestry) killed 11 (2.5%) and injured 74 (4.3%).

It is therefore a reasonable conclusion that radical Islamic terrorists that are non-native or are native AND a first or second-generation immigrant are the ones that cause the most casualties, but why is this? Part of this, I argue, has to do with integration, or lack of it.

From this, it can also be concluded that the reason natives do not kill as many is because of a sociological attachment to their country, although as far as I have seen, there is no literature on the subject. Although first-generation immigrants, as I showed in a previous post on this blog, are prone to commit less crime than natives, this does not seem to hold true for radical Islamic terrorism as evidenced by the data above.

In regards to second-generation immigrants, their identity is relatively unknown, as they are study between the identity (or identities) of their parents country and creating a new identity from the country they were born into. In general, there are “unique assimilation experiences and challenges faced by the children of immigrants”[1],

In the French/European context, Olivier Roy noted that “there is no such thing as third or fourth-generation jihadis [in France] […] This phenomenon of new jihadis in Europe is primarily a generational revolt. […] They [second-generation Muslim immigrants] [join the second-generation immigrants’ “estranged” Islam, which manifests in a generational, cultural and political rupture. In short, there is no point in offering them a moderate Islam. Radicalism attracts them by definition”[2] and “are raised in an environment where they will constantly be torn between the heritage and host culture of what they learn in the home and at school.”[3]

Sandra Bucerius notes that “research findings in European countries indicate that some second-generation immigrant groups have crime rates that drastically exceed those of the native-born population.”[4]

Ronald Inglehart and Pippa Norris argue that if the multiculturalism thesis is correct, then “any significant cultural differences among majority and minority populations are not be expected to diminish among second and third generation migrants; indeed if alienation from the West has occurred, as some observations suggest, then this could even potentially strengthen Muslim identities among younger populations.”[5]

Whether or not it is a lack of proper identity resulting in rebellion or the strengthening of religious identities as the result of alienation, these Muslims are targeted by extremist groups like ISIS as the result of this vulnerability. It is likely that among both first-generation and second-generation Muslim immigrants, the events going on in the wider Muslim world in regards to the West’s military operations.

When they see their countries, or the countries of their parents, attacked, it provokes a response in these young Muslims, which ISIS uses in attempt to encourage attacks abroad by Muslims residing in their own countries, as evidenced by a recent video published in mid-May by the Media Office of Wilayat Ninawa. In the video, American ISIS fighter Abu Hamza Al-Amriki [Abu Hamza the American] asked Muslims in the United States “does it not pain you to see your brothers with their honor having been violated, and their bodies having been torn into pieces by the American airstrikes and their destructive weapons?”[6]

Final note: When I started this, I wanted to solely get a three-year time frame and not deviate from that goal. After the two-year time frame however, there were two other attacks, one in London on June 3rd, and one in Paris on June 6th. The attackers in these two attacks, Khuram Butt [7] (born in Pakistan), Rachid Redouane [8] (born in Morocco or Libya), Youssef Zaghba[9] Born in Morocco), and Farid Ikken[10] (born in Algeria, moved to Sweden) were all foreign nationals.

[1]: http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0011128713502406
[2]: https://www.madamasr.com/en/2016/01/11/opinion/u/the-islamization-of-radicalism/
[3]: http://www.mckendree.edu/academics/scholars/issue15/puloka.htm
[4]: https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=d1fiBwAAQBAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PA385&dq=immigrants+and+crime&ots=Wb1eoyBd14&sig=uXtsxTbELZEae-kbiTWX_5LcENM#v=onepage&q=immigrants%20and%20crime&f=false
[5]: https://dash.harvard.edu/bitstream/handle/1/4481625/norris_muslimintegration.pdf?sequence=1
[6]: https://www.memri.org/reports/isis-video-features-american-canadian-british-russian-belgian-fighters-urging-muslims-carry
[7]: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/live/2017/jun/05/london-attack-isis-claims-responsibility-victims-named-live-updates
[8]: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/06/05/ringleader-london-bridge-terror-attack-named-khuram-butt/
[9]: http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-40169985
[10]: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-europe-attacks-france-idUSKBN18Y12T


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