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The Missing Martyrs: Why Are There So Few Muslim Terrorists?

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Why are there so few Muslim terrorists? With more than a billion Muslims in the world-many of whom supposedly hate the West and ardently desire martyrdom-why don't we see terrorist attacks every day? Where are the missing martyrs? These questions may seem counterintuitive, in light of the death and devastation that terrorists have wrought around the world. But the scale of Why are there so few Muslim terrorists? With more than a billion Muslims in the world-many of whom supposedly hate the West and ardently desire martyrdom-why don't we see terrorist attacks every day? Where are the missing martyrs? These questions may seem counterintuitive, in light of the death and devastation that terrorists have wrought around the world. But the scale of violence, outside of civil war zones, has been far lower than the waves of attacks that the world feared in the wake of 9/11. Terrorists' own publications complain about Muslims' failure to join their cause. The Missing Martyrs draws on government sources and revolutionary publications, public opinion surveys and election results, historical documents and in-depth interviews with Muslims in the Middle East and around the world to examine barriers to terrorist recruitment, including liberal Islam, revolutionary rivalries, and an inelastic demand for U.S. foreign policy. This revised edition, updated to include the self-proclaimed "Islamic State," concludes that fear of terrorism should be brought into alignment with the actual level of threat, and that government policies and public opinion should be based on evidence rather than alarmist hyperbole.


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Why are there so few Muslim terrorists? With more than a billion Muslims in the world-many of whom supposedly hate the West and ardently desire martyrdom-why don't we see terrorist attacks every day? Where are the missing martyrs? These questions may seem counterintuitive, in light of the death and devastation that terrorists have wrought around the world. But the scale of Why are there so few Muslim terrorists? With more than a billion Muslims in the world-many of whom supposedly hate the West and ardently desire martyrdom-why don't we see terrorist attacks every day? Where are the missing martyrs? These questions may seem counterintuitive, in light of the death and devastation that terrorists have wrought around the world. But the scale of violence, outside of civil war zones, has been far lower than the waves of attacks that the world feared in the wake of 9/11. Terrorists' own publications complain about Muslims' failure to join their cause. The Missing Martyrs draws on government sources and revolutionary publications, public opinion surveys and election results, historical documents and in-depth interviews with Muslims in the Middle East and around the world to examine barriers to terrorist recruitment, including liberal Islam, revolutionary rivalries, and an inelastic demand for U.S. foreign policy. This revised edition, updated to include the self-proclaimed "Islamic State," concludes that fear of terrorism should be brought into alignment with the actual level of threat, and that government policies and public opinion should be based on evidence rather than alarmist hyperbole.

30 review for The Missing Martyrs: Why Are There So Few Muslim Terrorists?

  1. 4 out of 5

    Tim

    The author is a sociologist who has done research in Iran, but this book is accessible to anyone, regardless of one's knowledge of sociology, Islam, or the Middle East. The book explores why there are not more Muslim terrorists. An assumption held by many non-Muslims, and actively advanced by some, is the idea that Islam is inherently violent and its doctrines compel its followers to wage war against non-Muslims. In advancing this notion, some people cherry pick Quranic verses and ahadith to The author is a sociologist who has done research in Iran, but this book is accessible to anyone, regardless of one's knowledge of sociology, Islam, or the Middle East. The book explores why there are not more Muslim terrorists. An assumption held by many non-Muslims, and actively advanced by some, is the idea that Islam is inherently violent and its doctrines compel its followers to wage war against non-Muslims. In advancing this notion, some people cherry pick Quranic verses and ahadith to advance the notion that terrorism is ideologically rooted in Islam. These "facts" can seem like plausible explanations to many, because they appear to offer an easy explanation for why many of the most horrific terror attacks of the last few decades have been perpetrated by Muslims. But, if those who argue that Islam is an ideological foundation for terror were even close to being correct, given that there are about a billion Muslims in this world, then it seems likely that we would have seen far more terror attacks in recent years. Kurzman inquires into why that has not happened. Rather than engage in a discussion of theology or Islamic jurisprudence, Kurzman focuses on the religious views of individuals who have conducted terror attacks and the religious views of other Muslims of various backgrounds. What he finds is that many perpetrators of terror attacks do not hold views that the ideological leaders of various terror movements would approve of. He also finds that most Muslims disagree with the ideology that most terrorist leaders espouse. But this book is more than an argument against the notion that Muslims are terrorists. Kurzman also explores how attitudes and ideology are impacted by US foreign policy. In short: not very much. He explains why Muslim attitudes toward the US are inelastic; largely unchanging regardless of our foreign policy. This book is a badly needed counterpoint to the vicious slander that passes for public discourse today on religion in America. Rather than arguing what the Quran does or does not say, Kurzman chooses to inquire into what Muslims actually believe. Rather than assume that America is to blame for any ill will, he explores why others dislike us and finds it to be a far more complex issue that cannot be explained away by criticizing US foreign policy.

  2. 4 out of 5

    William

    Kurzman's look at Islam and Islamist terrorism is a much needed book in today's climate of fear, paranoia, and misinformation. As the title would suggest, he begins with the common American assumption that violence and hatred of the West are somehow inherent in the DNA of Islam and then, looking at the actual statistics, asks, "Why are there so few Muslim terrorists?" If the commonly held ideas linking terrorism and violence with Islam are accurate one would expect that with a billion Muslims in Kurzman's look at Islam and Islamist terrorism is a much needed book in today's climate of fear, paranoia, and misinformation. As the title would suggest, he begins with the common American assumption that violence and hatred of the West are somehow inherent in the DNA of Islam and then, looking at the actual statistics, asks, "Why are there so few Muslim terrorists?" If the commonly held ideas linking terrorism and violence with Islam are accurate one would expect that with a billion Muslims in the world terrorists and terrorism would be far more common. The book delves into recently gathered data to examine attitudes, opinion, and voting patterns in Muslim majority nations to answer the question. Kurzman shows a disconnect between animosity toward the West or toward America and a willingness to commit radical acts. The book examines the many facets of radical Islam and its contrast with the growing prevalence of liberal Islamist views in the Muslim world. Kurzman also looks at the relationship between US foreign policy and attitudes toward the US and offers helpful ideas in regard to what the US can do to improve relations with Muslims and promote Liberalism in Muslim nations.

  3. 5 out of 5

    David

    Some useful (for me anyway) historical background on issues such as how Taliban and Bin Laden felt about each other, overlap and conflict in their priorities and methods, rivalries, etc. Beyond that, I had some trouble getting into the motivating premise of the book, that it's a surprise (from the vantage point of what he takes to be typical American perspective) that there are so few terrorists relative to how many Muslims they are. As I read, I kept involuntarily humming Anne Murray's "A Little Some useful (for me anyway) historical background on issues such as how Taliban and Bin Laden felt about each other, overlap and conflict in their priorities and methods, rivalries, etc. Beyond that, I had some trouble getting into the motivating premise of the book, that it's a surprise (from the vantage point of what he takes to be typical American perspective) that there are so few terrorists relative to how many Muslims they are. As I read, I kept involuntarily humming Anne Murray's "A Little Good News" ("....nobody got assassinated in the whole wide world today....."). I mean, yes, it's great that the majority of Muslims are not suicide bombers, but I never thought that in the first place. And it doesn't take a large number of terrorists to cause a large amount of concern. so I guess I'd say I recommend this book as an eye-opener for anyone who thinks Muslim = terrorist fanatic and as in-depth education for anyone who doesn't think that and can ignore the author's point of departure while sifting through the book for stuff you didn't know before.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    I picked this book up out of idle curiosity, and was blown away. Anyone with the vaguest interest in the "War on Terror" or American foreign relations with Muslim states should read it. The basic premise is an analysis of why, despite wide-spread anti-American feelings in the Middle East, there are statistically so very few Muslim terrorists. Kurzman is an expert on Iranian politics and culture, and he uses Iran quite often as a gauge on anti-American feeling. But this book isn't just about that I picked this book up out of idle curiosity, and was blown away. Anyone with the vaguest interest in the "War on Terror" or American foreign relations with Muslim states should read it. The basic premise is an analysis of why, despite wide-spread anti-American feelings in the Middle East, there are statistically so very few Muslim terrorists. Kurzman is an expert on Iranian politics and culture, and he uses Iran quite often as a gauge on anti-American feeling. But this book isn't just about that basic point. Kurzman also discuses American foreign policy towards Muslim states in general, as well as the ramifications of internal and external American misunderstandings of motives and attitudes not only of Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups, but the Muslim world in general. He's also a fan of a unilateral American recognition of Palestine as a sovereign state, with or without Israeli support (which I agree with). Also presented is the novel idea that we should actually listen to what people need, instead of deciding what they need from afar. Kurzman relates a story of an American unit in Afghanistan (I believe) which was under constant rocket attacks. The commander went to the local village, who probably at least knew where the rockets were coming from, and instead of razing it, actually talked to the elders. Apparently they were angry because of an American raid in the village which had destroyed some important buildings. They happened to mention that they really needed a school. A few days later, American troops brought them a bunch of school supplies, and lo and behold, the attacks stopped. A tiny bit of positive effort, and LISTENING, can lead to a cessation of hostilities better than kicking in doors and tossing flashbangs. This isn't a liberal or conservative book, really, though if you had to choose it would probably lean slightly left. Kurzman is pro-academic, I suppose, and certainly pro-sociology. He feels that understanding the Muslim world is vital for forming proper, effective foreign policy both in terms of fighting terrorism, and simply in having positive relations with the Middle East. It has a great deal of direct quotes from surveys of people in various Muslim nations, and is a unique frame of reference for anyone interested in the overarching discussion of Muslim/Western relations.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Cavak

    I always felt like the US mass media was too eager to exaggerate the loss and horror of 9/11. Too eager to name who "our enemies" were, to instill fear on all who watched. Everyone liked to point to Fox News as the worst offender, but I felt that undercurrent from every news network I tried to watch. While I thought the deaths were terrible, I was more scared by the paranoia expressed than the idea of another attack. I mean, who was the US declaring war against again? So having a retrospective I always felt like the US mass media was too eager to exaggerate the loss and horror of 9/11. Too eager to name who "our enemies" were, to instill fear on all who watched. Everyone liked to point to Fox News as the worst offender, but I felt that undercurrent from every news network I tried to watch. While I thought the deaths were terrible, I was more scared by the paranoia expressed than the idea of another attack. I mean, who was the US declaring war against again? So having a retrospective look of groupthink on both sides of the fence was appreciated by me. It was a welcome change with realistic explanations. To my joy, it includes the people who can sympathize but not support as well—the layman, the artists, the moderates, the religious leaders. Obviously, not everyone will resort to violence to express their beliefs, but I appreciate that there was an extensive effort to illustrate that reality through multiple resources. People are people, no matter where they live. Kurzman's criticism and dissection of uniformed pundits always amused me. And I did learn something about the differences between militant Islamist organizations that grabbed the headlines. It was like Kurzman was calmly answering all of my biggest questions that I wanted answered from my confused youth. Hell, he helped clarify some things I was puzzled about nowadays too! I was surprised to get a dry laugh out of it. The Missing Martyrs is a scholar's report, so I can't imagine it will be easy to read without concentration. Don't expect a Mary Roach experience; Kurzman shares stories, but they are aimed to be informative and not entertainment. If you follow along with him, however, passages can be quite fascinating. Kurzman also assumes that you have a vague idea of which militant Islamist organizations are active or what 9/11 did to the global public conscious, which may alienate people who either don't pay attention to the news or were too young to experience the public news rush. It's unfortunate that the closest I've found to even approaching the same subject matter in a bookstore nearest to me is rather dated, radical, and filled with all of the dangers Kurzman warns against ( Why We Want to Kill You: The Jihadist Mindset & How to Defeat it ). There should be more books like The Missing Martyrs in every library and bookstore. Especially now that it has been updated to include what has changed since the Bush administration. Thank you, Kurzman, for updating this book. I am grateful for the work that went into it. With any luck, there won't be a need to update it again another decade from now. I received the book for free through Goodreads Giveaways.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Lucy

    3 1/2 stars, rounded up to 4. If Muslims hate America so much, why haven’t we seen more terrorism? How do you explain the gap? The author is a sociology professor at the University of Chapel Hill. His explanation, as I understand it, is that not all Muslims hate America, and for those that do, it’s either not worth getting themselves killed or they just can’t get their act together. There simply aren’t that many passionate, activist American-hating Muslims out there, although their number isn’t 3 1/2 stars, rounded up to 4. If Muslims hate America so much, why haven’t we seen more terrorism? How do you explain the gap? The author is a sociology professor at the University of Chapel Hill. His explanation, as I understand it, is that not all Muslims hate America, and for those that do, it’s either not worth getting themselves killed or they just can’t get their act together. There simply aren’t that many passionate, activist American-hating Muslims out there, although their number isn’t zero. Although I appreciated the book, I think I’d get much more out of attending a semester-long course on the topic, with discussion and feedback. Sadly, I suspect that there’s a very large portion of the American population that will never change their minds about the perceived threat of Muslim terrorists no matter what anyone says.

  7. 5 out of 5

    SpaceBear

    Rather than the typical question of 'why re there so many Muslim terrorists?" Kurzman seeks to ask the opposite; why aren't there more Muslim terrorists? He argues that an understanding of the Middle East shows that people simply don't support violent political Islam - and never really did.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    Written pre-Isis, so some of its accuracy has decreased. Poses some interesting questions and raises some interesting points.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Shah

  10. 4 out of 5

    Michael

  11. 4 out of 5

    Kevin

  12. 5 out of 5

    Edgar

  13. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Ashley

  14. 5 out of 5

    Reeve Ballard

  15. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

  16. 5 out of 5

    Hzz15743

  17. 5 out of 5

    C

  18. 4 out of 5

    J Quiles

  19. 5 out of 5

    Mark Bailey

  20. 4 out of 5

    Isma iqbal

  21. 4 out of 5

    Steven Aiello

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jacob Wixom

  23. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca Andrews

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan Moore

  25. 4 out of 5

    rose

  26. 5 out of 5

    Carol

  27. 4 out of 5

    Mbillips

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jesse

  29. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

  30. 5 out of 5

    Katline Craig

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