Responding to Loonwatch's Attack on the TROP List of Islamic Terror Attacks Since 9/11
The Religion of Peace 27 August 2012
By Glen Roberts
This article is a belated response to an attack by the website "Loonwatch” on TheReligionofPeace.com (TROP) which appears to raise questions about the
integrity of the broadly cited list of Islamic terror attacks maintained by TROP.
Loonwatch is an apparently well-funded Islamic website run by an anonymous group which exists for two general purposes: to publicize incidents of offense to Muslim-Americans (which are mostly trivial against the horrific discrimination faced by religious minorities in Muslim lands), and to slander critics of Islam, usually by pretending that they are making bigoted arguments against Muslims as a people when they really aren’t.
The people behind Loonwatch generally ignore or severely downplay Islamic terrorism, since the significance of the issues they promote compares poorly to the hundreds of shootings, bombings, stabbing and beheadings that occur each month in the name of Allah. My own website, TheReligionofPeace.com (TROP) is a frequent target of theirs, since it presents a litany of Islamic violence that is difficult to ignore.
As with other Muslim organizations in America, such as CAIR, Loonwatch suffers from a near absence of moral perspective. While fervent members of their own religion go about imprisoning, assaulting, beating, igniting, shooting, bludgeoning, and torturing Christians who share their faith in Islamic lands, for example, these groups whine incessantly about bacon bits, hurt feelings and the inexorable "someone didn’t hire me because I wear a hijab”. Very rarely will they even bother to denounce specific atrocities meted out in the name of Islam, much less channel their influence toward resolving far more serious problems associated with their faith.
It is this astonishing narcissism that compelled me to being compiling a list of Islamic terror attacks in 2002. In the ten years since, it has grown to about 20,000. My original hope was that confronting Muslim organizations with the magnitude of violence committed in the name of their religion might inspire a realignment of priorities more in keeping with that of other faith and value systems. Obviously, this did not happen.
Instead of inspiring action toward ending the violence, these groups respond merely by trying to discount and shift responsibility, almost as if it is a game. For their part, Loonwatch has produced several articles and videos over the years attempting to manipulate others into believing that the list of attacks is entirely fabricated or that Islam plays no role in the violence. Theirs is the sort of religion that fosters self-absorption without self-reflection, it seems.
Loonwatch demonizes any critic of Islam with a broad-brush. It matters little to them, for example, that my site takes issue only with a supremacist ideology that openly touts the superiority of Muslim men and the relative inferiority of everyone else, or that I passionately denounce the mistreatment of Muslims and even the desecration of copies of the Quran. They prefer instead to blindly slander TROP as a "hate site” and insinuate that there is a sinister effort on my part to promote a false agenda.
A July 10th article on Loonwatch, modestly titled "TheReligionOfPeace.com: Working to Streamline the American Empire’s ‘War on Terror’”, appears to be a slightly more sophisticated attempt to disparage the list of attacks. After years of implying that the incidents on the list were fabricated, it seems that someone at Loonwatch actually analyzed a month’s worth of TROP data and could not find a single one that had not occurred. The focus then shifted to absolving Islam of responsibility for the attacks based on a handful of items that appear to fall into a grey area.
Before delving into a detailed response (in which I expect to lose a few readers) I will point out that I have always said the TROP list is not a scientific product but rather an honest effort to gather an accurate record of true Islamic terrorism. I define an attack as an incident of deadly non-combat violence in which it can be reasonably assumed that religion was a key motive (it does not have to be the only factor). I am committed to truth and always open to correction. At one time in the past, in fact, I even tried (unsuccessfully) to dialogue with the Loonwatch staff.
According to the July 10th article, Loonwatch is now admitting that the violence on the TROP list is real, but claims that about 7% of the incidents are either not terrorism or not Islamic. This is a fair complaint, but even if true, hardly justifies the over-the-top conclusion that I am guilty of a "propagandistic spin-job” replete with "lies.” Why would anyone intentionally taint such a large list with bad seeds? Obviously, the truth is more complicated and requires a closer look.
Loonwatch combed through 203 fatal attacks from about June 6th to July 7th, 2012 and found only 15 with which they took issue (one of these had already been removed from the list, but more on that later). Of the 15, seven were "honor” killings and the other eight allegedly fall into four additional categories which should have precluded them from a list of Islamic terror.
Since half of Loonwatch’s objections pertain to honor killings, it bears mention that for years, I have acknowledged on TROP that "a handful of incidents on the list may not fit the traditional definition of a 'terror attack’” and I used honor killings as a specific example. Others may disagree, but in my opinion, killing a woman in cold blood for violating Islamic morals is Islamic terror.
For its part, Loonwatch casually dismisses honor killings as a broad phenomenon that is "unrelated to Islam” and practiced by "various cultures around the world.” This is quite a stretch given that well over 90% of honor killers are Muslim males who often credit their religion. It is Islamic law after all that raises consensual sex to the level of capital crime. Readers can make up their own minds as to whether honor killings fit their definition of a terror attack, but it seems to be somewhat academic here given that less than 1% of the casualties on the TROP list actually fall into this category.
Two of the remaining eight attacks with which Loonwatch takes issue are of Taliban in uniform shooting NATO soldiers in the back while yelling praises to Allah. Loonwatch doesn’t deny the religious angle, but argues that the attacks shouldn’t qualify as terrorism because the victims aren’t civilian. (In fact Loonwatch actually says that their definition of terrorism is "the targeted killing of civilians in the furtherance of a political cause”, which would necessarily preclude any act of religious violence).
I’m not sure where it is written that terror attacks against people in uniform shouldn’t count, particularly in a non-combat situation. The victims in these two incidents were murdered while in the process of training Afghan security to defend their country from terrorists who routinely blow up marketplaces and Muslim schoolchildren. Is Loonwatch arguing that they should not have been doing this? The logic seems a bit vague to me, and I suspect that there may be an ulterior agenda.
Of the six remaining incidents, Loonwatch insists that two should be classified as "non-religious.” One of these, incredibly enough, is of two Christian musicians in Egypt murdered by "ultra-conservative Salafis” who consider music "prohibited as a distraction from religious duties”. The murders occurred amidst other Salafi killings and the distribution of leaflets warning Christians of "a tragic end if they do not return to the truth.”
All of this is pure coincidence according to Loonwatch, which claims that "most reports say a religious motive is not suspected”. But this is not true, which is why out of "most reports” they produce exactly zero. While there was a very early write-up, copied by other sources, in which unnamed local officials claimed they were still working on a motive, their lack of candor probably had more to do with the intense rioting taking place at the time.
This is typical of Loonwatch, which uses deceitful tactics to make it appear as if others are guilty of the same. In my case, they take advantage of the fact that there are almost always news articles published in the immediate aftermath of an attack which state that no one has yet claimed responsibility, even though Islamic terror is later confirmed or reasonably inferred (such as the wave of July attacks that were claimed in August by the "Islamic Army of Iraq"). I never asserted that I wait until the outcome of criminal trials to post attacks, only that I never post anything that I believe to be false.
The other "non-religious” attack on our list, according to Loonwatch, was the shooting of a police officer in Dagestan by an "insurgent”. But, if the insurgency in Dagestan is non-religious then someone forgot to tell the participants. Here’s a quote from one of them in a recent article: "I ask Allah for the opportunity to kill as many kafirs as we can.” Does this sound non-religious?
Two of the remaining four attacks on Loonwatch’s list occurred against Buddhists in Thailand and Myanmar. This can’t be terrorism, says Loonwatch, because Muslim populations in these two countries are discriminated against. Only in the upside-down world of Islam is it acceptable to kill innocent people on the basis of their group identity. Loonwatch and I will just have to agree to disagree on this.
Finally, we reach the last two attacks from the list of 15 to which Loonwatch takes issue. Both of these occurred in Pakistan and were subsequently claimed by the BLA (Baluchistan Liberation Army). The BLA may be Sunnis, but they are not an Islamic terror group. Loonwatch says these two attacks don’t belong on the list… and they are absolutely correct! However, there is also a bit more to the story than they are letting on.
In the first place, one of these two attacks had already been removed from the list. The July 6th bombing of a bus in Turbat was specifically described by TROP as "suspected” and it was never on the site for even a full day, having been pulled after the BLA claimed responsibility. Evidently, this happened to be the window in which Loonwatch captured their data. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt by assuming that they did not know the item had been removed from the list, but they may want to consider cutting some slack of their own here as well.
Terror attacks in Pakistan’s Baluchistan region are notoriously difficult to analyze since there is both Taliban activity and a separatist ethnic insurgency by the BLA. It is also a region in which Shia bus passengers are routinely blown up and brutally shot to death by Sunnis in cold blood for no reason other than their religious affiliation. In fact, 31 Shia passengers were killed in three attacks similar to the Turbat bus bombing in this same region during the 30 days analyzed by Loonwatch. This is why better minds than mine were also initially fooled into suspecting that this attack by Sunnis on a bus bound for Shiite Iran was sectarian, even if it was admittedly premature to post on TROP.
That presumably leaves only one incident out of a pool of 203 which was a genuine mistake: the June 27th bombing of a train in Quetta that was subsequently claimed by the BLA. Loonwatch gets credit for finding this, but when the calculated margin of error is less than one half of one percent, it is highly disingenuous to conclude, as they do, that "facts are no hindrance for TROP propaganda.” Who is really guilty of the spin-job here?
The truth is that there are dozens of deadly BLA attacks that occur each month which are not on my list. I also filter out hundreds of political killings that occur in Karachi each year to include only sectarian attacks. Mistakes that I make are later corrected, and if there are one or two incidents out of every 200 on the list that don’t belong, then there are almost certainly hundreds, if not thousands of other Islamic terror attacks over the last ten years that I did not catch at all or disregarded for lack of a reliable source.
By contrast, Loonwatch entertains standards of "Christian” terrorism that are loose to the point of laughable. Their criticism of my site actually pulls from the work of Sami Zaatari, who is known for having touted a list of what he called "Christian terror attacks” on Muslim-Responses.com. Although he has since gone to great lengths to purge it from Internet archives, Sami’s "list" was a collection of a few dozen bombings carried out over the last 50 years by a motley crew that included Columbian drug gangs, the KKK, leftist terror groups like FARC, and the Marxist-atheist IRA. Most of the perpetrators were not even remotely religious.
In fact, Loonwatch's own record in the credibility department is a bit sketchy. For example, they are still hammering Robert Spencer for warning that the Muslim Brotherhood would take over in Egypt - scientifically dismissing it as "loony fear-mongering” on the part of someone who "isn’t qualified to speak on such subjects”. Loonwatch's own panel of experts assured them that Islamists in Egypt were "simply too weak to overtake the secular opposition” in the upcoming elections. Then the elections were held… and Islamists took 76% of the legislative body… and the presidency.
In the case of Loonwatch's attack on TROP, the real story isn’t so much whether or not 7% of the incidents on the list fit their personal requirements, but rather their lack of interest in the other 93%. Even if half the list could be legitimately disregarded (which it cannot), it would still leave a great deal of horrific violence done in the name of Islam each and every day. There seems to be no flicker of recognition on their part as to the larger problem.
The 202 Islamic terror attacks documented in the period analyzed by Loonwatch occurred across 26 countries. They ranged from Abu Sayyaf strafing elderly women with gunfire in the Philippines to a secular blogger stabbed in the throat by fundamentalists in the Maldives. Of the 1,061 people killed, the incidents with which Loonwatch takes issue accounted for just 36. More innocents than that were massacred in a single Sunday’s worth of church bombings on June 17th by Islamists in Nigeria, who openly credited the Quran's imperative to fight Christians. In Kenya, Mujahideen threw grenades into two more churches and shot worshippers as they fled. In Tunisia, videotape surfaced of an ex-Muslim convert to Christianity being gruesomely beheaded to shouts of ‘Allah Akbar’ by those who prayed beforehand.
Meanwhile, Loonwatch scours for anomalies in order to make the weak point that a few dozen deaths out of every thousand may not fit the traditional definition of terror attack victims since they were women stabbed in the name of Quranic morals or troops shot in the back by Allah-praising Islamists while trying to protect Afghan children. There’s the moral victory? Really?
Here’s a tip for Loonwatch. Take another look at that list and see if you can tell where religious tolerance is needed most in the world today.