Top Menu

What Is the Real Terrorist Threat in America?

A must read:

What Is the Real Terrorist Threat in America?

by Steve Coll (The New Yorker)

Satwant Kaleka, who served as president of the Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, arrived in the United States from India three decades ago with thirty-five dollars in savings. By last Sunday, he owned several gas stations, according to the Los Angeles Times. He turned up early that morning at his temple to oversee worship and preparations for a large birthday party.

Wade Michael Page, a former bassist and guitarist in a white-supremacist rock band, drove to Oak Creek just after 10:15 A.M. He pulled out a pistol and shot worshipers remorselessly. An eleven-year-old-boy, Abhay Singh, watched him shoot one victim seven or eight times.

Kaleka tried to tackle the gunman. Page shot him, too; Kaleka dragged himself away, but he bled to death. He was sixty-two years old.

Sikhs in the greater Milwaukee area face discrimination “on a daily basis” because of the visible markers of their faith, such as the turbans that believing Sikh men tie on, Kaleka’s brother said later, and yet Kaleka held onto a belief in an “American freedom dream.”

Page’s other five victims were all immigrants to the United States from India’s Punjab province, where there is a large Sikh population. Among them were Suveg Singh Khattra, an eighty-four-year-old farmer who came to the U.S. to live with his son, and Paramjit Kaur, who worked more than sixty-five hours a week at a Wisconsin medical-instrument factory; she was the mother of two college-age sons.

There is no hierarchy of hate crime or racist terrorism, but Page’s massacre has a distinctive, sickening quality, set amid ignorance and reflecting a pattern of underpublicized bias of a sort that is often directed at the smallest of minority groups.

It’s not clear whether the shooter, like some Americans who have violently attacked Sikhs before, mistakenly believed that his victims were Muslims. In any event, the outrage would be the same if Page had shot up a mosque. The killer seemed to hate all brown people, regardless of their religious affiliation.

Yet the mass murder at Oak Creek took place in a context of persistent discrimination against Sikhs. During the months and years after September 11, 2001, Sikhs have been attacked and in at least one instance murdered by vigilantes who mistook them for members of the Taliban. Nor is this bias only a fringe problem of skinheads. At American airports, it is the policy of the Transportation Security Administration to always single out turban-wearing Sikh men for secondary screening and pat downs, no matter the traveller’s age or profile. (Turbans can in theory hide explosives, as suicide bombers in Afghanistan have demonstrated, but the procedures and explanations of the T.S.A. about its rules, as described by the Sikh Coalition, an advocacy and education group, suggest a blanket policy that would not likely be applied to a religious group with a higher profile and more numerous advocates.)

The Oak Creek murders reflect upon another neglected subject: the surprising pattern of terrorism in America since September 11th. In partnership with a team of researchers at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Public Policy, some of my colleagues at the New America Foundation collated and analyzed three hundred and two cases of domestic terrorism during the decade after the September 11th attacks. The numbers do not correspond with the public’s fear or understanding.

The entire decade-long domestic death toll from terrorism (that is, where a political or ideological motive was apparent) was thirty. By comparison, the rate of annual deaths from mass shootings by non-ideological deranged killers—such as the gunman who attacked moviegoers in Aurora, Colorado, last month—runs more than thirty times higher (on average, about a hundred deaths each year). In all, there are about fifteen thousand murders in America each year.

Of the three hundred domestic-terrorism cases studied, about a quarter arose from anti-government extremists, white supremacists, or terrorists animated by bias against another religion. And all of the most frightening cases—involving chemical, biological, and radiological materials—arose from right-wing extremists or anarchists. None arose from Islamist militancy.

There was William Krar, for example, a militia activist who had stored “enough chemicals to produce a quantity of hydrogen cyanide gas that could kill thousands, along with more than one hundred weapons, nearly one hundred thousand rounds of ammunition and more than one hundred pounds of explosives.”

Why do these statistics seem so poorly publicized? Is the media a symptom of this problem or a cause? Why, to choose only the most recent indicator, would the Times fail to place on the front page any enterprise story about Oak Creek Wednesday morning, only the second day after the shooter’s racist background became known? (The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times did put massacre stories on A-1.) It is not hard to imagine the floodtide of sidebar stories and the legions of reporters summoned off the campaign or home from vacation by now if Page had been a converted Muslim and the sanctuary he attacked were in a Christian church.

A pattern of terrorism that is repetitive, rising in ambition, and neglected by the public can signal a coming strategic surprise—this was true of Al Qaeda during the late nineteen-nineties, and it looks to be true of domestic racist terrorism today.

Terrorism is political violence that acquires its greatest power when it unnerves a targeted population. At conferences in Washington these days, panelists routinely discuss the possibility of Al Qaeda’s “strategic defeat,” because of the recent decimation of its leadership and its diminished capacity to carry out sophisticated attacks against the United States.

Yet such a defeat would also require Americans and their elected representatives to understand and speak accurately in public about the true dimensions of terrorism—to describe the violence in its real proportions, and to recognize the Oak Creek shooting’s links to right-wing and racist terrorism that is every bit as potent at home these days as Al Qaeda and its followers are, if not more so. That clarity—that victory—seems a long way off.

Photograph by Darren Hauck/Getty

Read more

, , , , , , ,

  • DrM


    5 star post.

  • Saladin aka Big Boss

    @Hatethehaterz The Islampophobia-verse is a very scary Virtual Reality created by La-li-lu-le-lo to manufacture fear and train people to be afraid of Muslims ,their probably every where but we must never be afraid to relax and laugh other wise they would win.

  • Hatethehaterz

    @ piss (I mean “peace”): No that is fact. Islam DOES mean peace and Islam IS a peaceful religion. Trolling would be that taqiyya nonsense you hateful bigots keep bringing up. The real taqiyya (aka liars) are you and your ilk who spread Islamophobic lies and nonsense. And the ultimate lie and troll would be implying that we Muslims and our faith are violent aggressors while you and your fellow bigots are burning down our Mosques, killing us or those you’ve mistaken for us in hate crimes domestically; and facilitating, encouraging, and cheering the slaughter of thousands (if not millions) of our people by your military abroad.

    Compared to the carnage both domestically and abroad that bigots like you encourage and condone, the Muslim community is very peaceful. In fact, “Muslim” extremists use these wars and hate crimes as justification for their actions, not Islam. I believe Loonwatch featured an article about that recently. Perhaps someone would be kind enough to find the link to it?

  • @Peace

    Loon Watch has already debunked that Taqiyya conspiracy nonsense, so why do even bother coming back here?

    Its also not just Loon Watch and point to other sources debunking it. You really need to do more research and not listen to anti Muslim bigots.

  • Nilufer R. Sage

    I feel peace in Islam… I’ll NOT take the blame for fools ignore gold for pyrite.

    Now… Replace “Islam” with ANY belief system.

  • Peace


    It depends on what you consider to be trolling, to me, taqiyya, you know, the ‘Islam is a religion of peace’ nonsense is the ultimate form of trolling.

  • Hatethehaterz

    Excellent article. Though I disagree with Mr. Coll on one point. He wrote “the outrage would be the same had Wade shot up a Mosque.” I doubt that. Racist, bigoted scum would be justifying it as eye for an eye revenge or some garbage excuse like that. Probably praising it in fact.

    @Saladin: lol, you should be careful what you type. You know the FBI or whoever probably monitors the internet. And we all know the haters that work there are probably too stupid to distinguish between comic books and reality. I mean Islamophobes already have a tenuous grip on reality to begin with.

  • Saladin aka Big Boss

    See the thing is since operation Snake Eater I have been working outside the governments belonging to no nation. Wandering as a rebel without a cause. Ever since Revolver Ocelot took out my eye it was never the same. The La-li-lu-le-lo Islamophobes and their network of Patriots were wining the battle in the blogosphere. The La-li-lu-le-lo had a vast network agents like Screaming Geller Mantis, Robert The Pain Spencer,even their secret agents like Tarek Vamp Fatah. I had to stay underground for the La-li-lu-le-lo were powerful. Until I found the nation of LoonWatch defeat their propaganda from blogosphere then I knew it was safe to come out and join the ranks of the nation of LoonWatch.

  • Solid Snake.

    Yeh, the concept if nanomachines is a vital plot device in the MGS series. It exains many of the “supernatural” aspects of the game like vamp being immortal.the thing is that some of the stuff in MGS are theoretically possible. I did a paper a while back about nanotechnology and nanomachines. They can be used to deliver specific medications, hormones, or nutrients to specific areas or cells in the body. They can also be programmed to kill people that carry a specific gene or characteristic. In fact they have used nanomachines to transport drugs directly to cancer cells and in that experiment they cured a mouse of.prostate cancer.

  • corey

    if you remeber he was in a comatose state by the nanomachines inside him (I think I dont remember much of it) though its funny that nanomachines in that series can do alot from helping a bunch of rampant computer programs dividing into other ones to keep people in check by not letting people say there orinazation name and starting conflicts, to staving off cancer, and help a person kill certain people when he came into contact with them, and help you become a badass soldier like snake in a matter of hours.

  • Wanderer

    Trolls been quiet lately..

  • Solid Snake.

    @Saladin aka Big Boss
    BIG BOSS!!!!? So, you have been here right under our noses all this did you do it? How did you remain undetected this whole time?!


  • Saladin aka Big Boss


    Ye Colbert is pretty funny but Canada needs more show like his.

  • Reynardine


  • Reynardine

    I believe that these groups have already bullied the presstitutes and even government agent into silence.

  • @Saladin aka Big Boss

    I saw that. Steven Colbert is hilarious!

  • @Emperor

    Here’s more on this story from NPR

    Sikh Shooting Puts Focus On Hate Groups At Home

  • @Emperor

    People should definitely consider donating money to groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center. They’ve been fighting far right extremists like this for years now and have gotten results on multiple occasions.

    Also anyone who hasn’t done so already, don’t forget to check out their blogs, Hate Watch and Teaching Tolerance.

  • Saladin aka Big Boss
  • mindy1

    I hope that this spate of hatred goes away, it’s not good for anyone to hate so much they kill 🙁

Powered by Loon Watchers