Aziz Huq Reviews Charles Kurzman's 'The Missing Martyrs'

Why are there so few Muslim terrorists?

Any book that is subtitled “Why there are so few Muslim terrorists” is bound to elicit mixed feelings from the average reader of altmuslim.

On the one hand, why “so few”? How many were you expecting? Of course, the prevailing assumption in the demotic literature of the op-ed pages and the cable news shows is that the term “Muslim terrorist” comes close to being an oxymoron. What other kind, after all, could be there?

Taking this position to a new height, Rep. Peter King (R-NY), recently insisted there was no tension between his past support for still-violent IRA and his current campaign against radicals. The IRA, he explained, didn’t hurt Americans. Quad est demonstrandum, as the philosophers in eastern Nassau County like to say.

On the other hand …thanks for that “so few”! The central contribution that University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill sociologist Charles Kurzman’s book The Missing Martyrs: Why There Are So Few Muslim Terrorists (Oxford University Press, July 2011) is encapsulated in that subtitle - indeed in those two words: Muslim terrorists. As Kurzman elaborates in a book that aims to map various (some but not all) divisions within the Muslim world, and the diversions and divagations of those who seek to turn that world en masse toward violence - there just aren’t that many “Muslim terrorists.”