Global terrorism, by definition, is a global issue. It is not one that could really be said to have a start or an endpoint. Instead it peaks and troughs.
While there are lots of statistics on the impact of terrorism, it is important to consider that these numbers represent lives. The Global Terrorism Index and the Global Terrorism Database (GTD) are useful tools for understanding the general picture but every number is a human being. Even using the words ‘peaks’ and ‘troughs’ refers to people’s lives.
In 2017, it was recorded by the GTD that the number of deaths as a result of terrorist attacks had dropped for the third year in a row.
Terrorism and terrorist incidents here are defined as per the GTD definition. Primarily, excluding nation-funded terrorism and outside “legitimate warfare” with the intention of benefiting someone/something. For this reason, many mass shootings are not included explaining the arguably low number of deaths in America.
Naturally, a news outlet will prioritise terrorist attacks with the closest proximity to the audience. Interestingly this has meant that the general western perspective of terrorism has been skewed. As a result, many now consider The West to be uniquely targeted by terrorism.
This is not the case. Within the range of years investigated, Syria suffered over 300% more fatalities to terrorist attacks than the UK and US combined. In fact, Syria surpassed the combined total of the UK and the US by 2014. Just three years into the Syrian Civil War.
- 2001 – The September 11 attack (US)
- 2004> – Western intervention in Iraq (Iraq)
- 2012> – Two years into the Arab Spring (Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Syria)
- 2012> – Boko Haram becomes increasingly active (Nigeria)
Terrorism is of course not limited to The West and MiddleEast. The vast majority of countries have witnessed some form of terrorist attack between 2000 and 2017. Just under 60 countries reportedly saw no deaths as a result of terrorism. These figures are largely limited to relatively low population countries such as Seychelles, Rhodesia and Iceland.
One country that reportedly saw no deaths from terrorism between 2000 and 2017 is New Zealand. Until recently, The sub-5 million population country has held a relatively peaceful reputation. Especially in comparison to other countries.
While the global trend of terrorist attacks has been dropping in recent years, according to GTD figures, the number of attacks as a result of right-wing terrorism has been rising. According to American University Professor, Erin Kearns, by 2017 Jihadists only account for 12% of attacks in the US. While right-wing and white supremacist terrorism made up 35% of attacks in the country.
The GTD found that there was a right-wing motivation linked to the majority of terrorist attackers during 2017.
According to The Nib, three of every four extremist-related murders during the last ten years has been committed by a right-wing terrorist.
Seth Jones, from the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, said, “right-wing extremism is growing in America and has more than quadrupled between 2016 and 2017.” He continued, “you can see a similar rising trend in Europe as well, jumping 43% in the same time period.”
With the rise of groups such as the English Defence League, White Lives Matter and Combat 18 there are fears that the UK is becoming a centre for far-right groups. According to an employee for a counter-extremism programme in Kent, the south-eastern region of England, there is a particular concern for communities feeling detached.
“Extreme right-wing views are becoming a bigger and bigger threat around here, and you can see there’s been a similar increase in violence. In most of the country even. There’s no justification for it but people here (Kent) are feeling like their interests are being ignored.”
According to the Home Office from 2017 to 2018, there was a 36% rise in the number of people referred to the Prevent de-radicalisation centre on suspected far-right extremism. The number of people referred for Islamic extremism fell by 14%.
Though official numbers cannot be confirmed, there is now said to be a greater number of right-wing extremists in de-radicalisation centres than religious extremists.
There is some debate however over programmes such as Prevent. Aside from the methods used there have been reports of unnecessary referrals, especially in schools. Approximately 42% of referrals resulted in no action being taken. While some argue this is due to over-referral others say this is a failure to recognise far-right extremism, given the rise in attacks.