The threat of domestic terrorism from American Muslims is dropping, according to a new report, which also noted that African Americans were less likely to be involved in terror plots than American born whites and Arabs.

“Muslim-American terrorism continued to be a miniscule threat to public safety last year,” wrote Charles Kurzman, the report’s author. “None of America’s 14,000 murders in 2011 were due to Islamic extremism.”

According to statistics included in the report, 15 percent of incidents involved African American suspects, 25 percent involved white suspects and 30 percent of suspects were of Arab descent.

The report, which studied the issue of Muslim-based domestic terrorism, was issued Wednesday by the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

It was the third year for the report, which serves as a barometer of terrorist activity among American Muslims in the decade following the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

Among Blacks, Americans with Somali backgrounds were singled out because in 2009, the first year of the report, Congressional hearings were held to specifically address concerns about Somalia.

“There were no new cases of Somali-American terrorism in 2011,” said Kurzman.

In 2009, 18 suspects were Somalis and in 2010 three were of Somali background. By last year, that number dropped to zero.

Numbers detailing the ethnic background of Muslims involved in domestic terrorism were part of a larger snapshot of Muslim involvement in terror plots.

Overall, author Charles Kurzman found the threat of terrorism has declined over the last ten years and that 2011 was the best of the last three years.

“The scale of homegrown Muslim-American terrorism in 2011 does not appear to corroborate … warnings issued by government officials early in the year,” he said.

In 2011, the number of incidents involving American Muslim suspects dropped to 20, down from 26 in 2010 and less than half the decade’s peak of 47 in 2009.

“The 20 offenders from 2011 do match any racial or ethnic profile,” Kurzman said.

According to the report, the greatest domestic threat comes from U.S. born Muslims, the majority of whom converted — 40 percent of suspects involved in 2011 incidents were converts.

Prison time did not seem to be a factor in potential involvement in terror plots. Only one suspect in 2011 had a prison record. Since 9/11, about less than one-tenth —– 17 of 193 — of terror suspects had prison records.

“Prison does not seem to be a major source of Islamic radicalization,” said Kurzman.

One area of concern was an increase in the number of terror suspects that had a military history. In 2011, 4 out 20 suspects had served in the military. That represented a doubling of the average since 9/11, since then approximately one-tenth of suspects had a history of military service.

The report noted that many of the helpful tips — 52 of 140 since 9/11 — in terror investigations come from Arab-Americans.

One Pennsylvanian has been implicated in a terrorist plot in 2011. Emerson Begolly, 22, of Mayport, in Armstrong County, was indicted in August for inciting Islamic extremism by promoting attacks on police stations, synagogues and government property.

Begolly, who is white, is currently awaiting trial.

Kurzman urged Americans to remain vigilant but to remain levelheaded.

“The challenge is for Americans to be vigilant about potential violence while keeping these threats in perspective,” he said.

 

To comment, contact staff writer Eric Mayes at (215) 893-5742 or emayes@phillytrib.com.

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