Friendly Reminder: “Homegrown” Terrorists Have Killed Far More Americans Than “Muslim Extremists” Since 9/11

Hi! How are you doing this Wednesday morning? Get a good night’s rest? Watch a little news this morning? In which perhaps some people were debating whether or not we should be taking refugees from Syria into our country, on the grounds that “some of them could maybe somehow be terrorists”? Did you see the Democratic debate this Saturday in which the candidates were asked whether or not they’d use the term “Islamic extremism”?  Well, then let’s chat.

Now, I realize that people are on edge after the recent attacks in Paris and Beirut. I don’t blame them — it’s horrifying and awful and it breaks my heart. But before you go off on any kind of tear about how you’re scared of Muslims and just aren’t sure we should take in any of those refugees at all — or, like Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz, grossly suggest we should only take in Christian refugees — I would like you to consider one very important fact.

As of June 2015, there had been 28 Americans killed by self-proclaimed Jihadists since 9/11. This is awful. However, as of June 2015, there had also been 48 Americans killed by terrorists who weren’t Muslim — and in fact, those terrorists were often self-identified Christians. Most of these terrorists were white supremacists and anti-government fanatics like sovereign citizens.

There was Dylann Roof — ever so fond of posing with the Confederate flag — who killed nine black people earlier this year during a prayer meeting in a Charleston church. There was Jim David Adkisson, who shot up a Unitarian Universalist church in Knoxville, Tennessee in 2008 because he was mad at liberals and gay people. In 2009, there was the murder of Dr. George Tiller by pro-life Christian extremist Scott Roeder.

Let us also not forget that the largest terrorist attack on American soil prior to 9/11 was also committed by far-right extremists Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols.

Let us also not forget that in addition to Dr. Tiller, seven other people have died at the hands of pro-life terrorists. That since 1977 there have been “17 attempted murders, 383 death threats, 153 incidents of assault or battery, 13 wounded, 100 butyric acid attacks, 373 physical invasions, 41 bombings, 655 anthrax threats, and 3 kidnappings committed against abortion providers.”

Let’s acknowledge the fact that there have been a string of arsons perpetrated against black churches this past year, and that it’s pretty unlikely that those crimes were committed by ISIS members.

Let’s acknowledge the fact that although it’s rarely defined as “terrorism,” there is a lot of other violence committed to further a political or religious agenda that happens in this country, and that is technically what terrorism is. When some asshole beats up a homeless man because he might be an immigrant and Donald Trump says immigrants are bad, that’s a form of terrorism. When men go on shooting sprees because they’re mad about feminism, that’s a form of terrorism.

There have also been terrorist plots by Christian extremists that we were fortunate enough to have stopped before anyone got hurt. Like that of Robert James Talbot, Jr. who planned to rob banks to fund his revolution and then blow up mosques in hopes of creating “a Pre-Constitutionalist Community that offers those who seek True patriotism and are looking for absolute Freedom by doing the Will of God.”

I’m an atheist, but I’m also a realist, and I’m aware that the chances of a Syrian refugee turning out to be a terrorist isn’t that much more likely than someone in my own neighborhood turning out to be one. I’m not going to assume a Muslim person is a terrorist any more than I’m going to assume that all American Christians want to bomb abortion clinics and commit mass murder because they’re mad about gay people existing.

I get that if all those who intend to incite terror followed just one religion, were from just one area in the world, that would make these horrible things a lot easier to understand, and it would be a lot easier to “feel safe.” Unfortunately, that’s just not how things are.

We can’t turn away people in desperate need just because there’s a possibility that one of them might be a bad person — because hey, we’ve got some of our own. We should do background checks and vet these people, many of them women and children, but we need to help. We turned Jewish refugees away during the Holocaust, and we never talk about it because we’re ashamed. Even now, we are ashamed. This is not a thing we ever need to repeat.