While Ted Cruz and Donald Trump are using the Brussels attack to foment Islamophobia amongst their respective bases, it’s important to note that white terrorists have killed more Americans on U.S. soil than Muslim terrorists since the 9/11 attacks.
The New America Foundation (NAF), a think tank funded by prominent universities and foundations, has been keeping track of all terrorist attacks on American soil since 9/11, and found that not only have white terrorists killed more Americans than jihadists, but attacks by white terrorists are also twice as frequent, with 18 homegrown terror attacks between 2004 and 2015, and just 9 terror attacks rooted in Islamic extremist ideology.
To define what constitutes a terrorist, NAF has very specific criteria:
The purpose of this database is to provide as much information as possible about American citizens and permanent residents engaged in violent extremist activity as well as individuals, regardless of their citizenship status, living within the United States who have engaged in violent extremist activity. We examine both those individuals motivated by Jihadist ideology, understood as those who worked with or were inspired by al-Qaeda and its affiliated groups, as well as those motivated by other ideologies that are non-Jihadist in character, for example right wing, left wing, or idiosyncratic beliefs.
NAF’s list of terrorist attacks since September 11, 2001 includes 9 attacks led by jihadists, which have killed 45 people — the most recent attack being the San Bernardino shooting in December that killed 14 and wounded 21 — and 18 attacks by American right-wing extremists that killed 48 people.
Most notably, while there were zero terror attacks on U.S. soil by Islamic extremists between June 2, 2009 and April 14, 2013, there were eight attacks by right-wing extremists in that time frame. The most deadly of those attacks was the Sikh temple shooting in Wisconsin in 2012, which left six dead and four wounded.
But despite the frequency and brutality of white terror attacks, there are far more Muslim terrorists prosecuted and/or killed for their crimes in 11 of the 15 years studied. As the chart below shows, the only years between 2001 and 2015 where non-jihadist terrorists were indicted or killed for their crimes more than their jihadist counterparts were 2001, 2004, 2008, and 2012:
Additional data shows that while jihadists were diverse in ethnicity, an overwhelming majority of American terrorists were white. Out of 182 total non-jihadist perpetrators of terror attacks in the US between 2001 and 2015, 165 were white. And while Trump is proposing an outright ban on Muslims entering the US as a way to combat terrorism, he ignores the fact that a vast majority of terrorists, both right-wing and Islamic, are American-born citizens: