Since the Red Army’s invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, the world has been shaken by jihadist terrorism. In forty years, Islamist terrorist attacks have multiplied, reaching as far as the heart of Western countries, New York, Madrid, London, Paris, but also Moscow, etc. By instilling feelings of fear and mistrust, through indiscriminate violence and its repetition, Islamist terrorism fuels or reinforces the demands for authoritarianism and closure that are increasing in democracies.
But have we measured the reality of this violence that worries us so much? Of course, we know that the United States was the scene of the most deadly series of attacks in the history of terrorism on 9/11. We may also know that in Europe France is the most affected country. We can see that Islamist violence strikes more often, even harder, outside the Western world. But we cannot say that we know how to evaluate Islamist violence in this way.
The Fondation pour l’innovation politique wanted to contribute to this evaluation. Since spring 2018, we have been working to quantify Islamist terrorism, to identify the forms it has taken over these decades, to classify the acts it may have inspired or initiated, to estimate the number of its victims, to identify the most deadly organisations and the most affected countries.
To do this, we collected a very large amount of information, to the point of building a large database. It is available in open data on our website data.fondapol.org.
We believe that the mass of information gathered sheds new light on the phenomenon of Islamist violence. It makes it possible to better describe it, to better understand it, to document its severity. Thus, by way of illustration, we can establish that between 1979 and 2019, at least 33,769 Islamist terrorist attacks took place worldwide. They caused the deaths of at least 167,096 people. We can also say that Islamist terrorist attacks account for 18.8% of all attacks worldwide, but that they are responsible for 39.1% of the lives lost due to terrorism; or that, during the years studied, there has been an intensification of this violence and that the deadliest period is the most recent: from 2013 onwards, in our opinion, Islam has become the main cause (63.4%) of deaths due to terrorism in the world. We identify and quantify operating methods and targets. The vision of the phenomenon improves, the image becomes clearer. In this way, we show that the majority of the victims of Islamist terrorism are Muslims (91.2%).
The information gathered is unprecedented. We hope that its content and use will contribute to the knowledge and quality of the debate as well as public decision.