When Extremists Get Serious
When attempting to determine the threat posed to the public by a certain extremist or extremist group, one sees that there are two types of extremists: The serious ones and the jokers. The jokers will post regularly on extremist discussion boards, and perhaps even attend a few public protests. They will with great bravado declare their loyalty to the cause and their support of revolutionary violence. And they will do absolutely nothing. They will in fact never harm another individual. Most jokers will never even work up the nerve to engage in any sort of direct action in support of their cause. While perhaps annoying and offensive, they pose little threat to public safety.
However, there are some extremists who mean exactly what they say. They're the ones who you'll end reading about in the morning paper. Ironically, while the jokers are invariably loudmouths, the serious ones usually don't make their presence knows until something blows up. Think of the Unabomber, Timothy McVeigh, and Eric Rudolph. Thankfully, from what I can tell about 99% of the political extremists in the U.S. are jokers; while good for a laugh, they pose little real threat. The United Kingdom is not so lucky. A recent survey conducted by Channel 4 of the BBC sought to determine the level of extremism among Muslims in the U.K. Considering the recent exposure of the plot to blow up airliners leaving British airports for the U.S., the survey was well timed. It's results are been seized upon by both right and left wingers as evidence for (respectively) the grave threat posed to the West by Muslim immigrants, and the inherent goodness of Muslims in general. Both positions hold some merit. The survey shows that the large majority of Muslims living in the U.K. consider the Union Jack to be “their” flag. They oppose terrorism in general, and support the expulsion of imams who preach in favor of it. However, there is a hardcore of 9% of the survey respondents who could be classified as extreme Islamists. They are either ready to engage in terrorist activity themselves, or at least passively support it. 9% is a fairly small sliver of the Muslim population; but at a total of 1.8 million, that means that there are about 170,000 radical Islamists in Britain right now. Given recent events, it seems likely that a fair percentage of these would probably be willing to take part in terrorist acts if the opportunity presented itself. This makes one think that British officials are probably right in their assertion that it is only a matter of time before another major terrorist strike occurs in the U.K.
It is interesting to note that this sort of radicalism among the 525,000 Muslims living in the U.S. appears to be quite less common. This may be in part because they are a smaller population spread out across a much larger area. It may also reflect the greater pressure within the U.S. to assimilate to the larger culture. Whatever the cause, we here in America are quite lucky that most of our extremists are more to be pitied than feared.