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The Missing Martyrs: Why There Are So Few Muslim Terrorists Hardcover – July 25, 2011

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (July 25, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199766878
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199766871
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 0.9 x 6.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,021,811 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"[A] hard-headed empirical approach to an issue so often locked in emotion-fueled back and forth...a must read." - Mother Jones

"Kurzman's book is a contribution to the study of Al Qaeda and Islamism." - New York Times Book Review

"Kurzman provides a significant answer to a question that needs to be addressed: in a world of more than a billion Muslims, why are there so few Muslim terrorists? So much attention is given by policy makers and media experts to the small number of extremists that Kurzman's crucial question is too often ignored. For anyone interested in reducing the threat of global terrorism, this study is required reading." -John Voll, Professor of Islamic History, Georgetown University

"The best scholarship asks uncomfortable questions, and then attempts to provide trenchant answers. Charles Kurzman has asked: why does fear of terrorism persist, despite the meagre number of actual casualties caused by those who claim to be Islamists or violent jihadi warriors? His answer is as bracing as it is counterintuitive: media need to tune down the obsession with violent episodes, but the American public also needs to clamor for an open, honest debate about terrorism. This book is a hard-headed manifesto, calling for a return to pragmatism, with more reliance on academics and less on interest-driven think tanks engaged with Middle East politics." -Bruce B. Lawrence, co-editor, with Aisha Karim, of On Violence: A Reader

About the Author

Charles Kurzman is a professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. His books include Democracy Denied and The Unthinkable Revolution in Iran.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 28 people found the following review helpful By G.X. Larson on August 14, 2011
Format: Hardcover
When Americans think of terrorism they cannot help but think of 9/11 and Al-Qaeda. Unless they have trained themselves not to, many will undoubtedly think of Islam as well. From 9/11 until recently there had been serious talk of an "Islamic terror problem": when would they strike again, and why was Islam so conducive to terror? Nowadays talk of an "Islamic terror problem" has taken a backseat to other, more pressing concerns: the economy, etc. Moreover, Bin Laden has been killed, the "Velvet Revolution" has transformed America's vision of the Islamic/Arabic world, and the comedic Peter King witch hunts have made unqualified Muslim baiting unwelcome. Still, however, we often ask ourselves why there are so many Muslim terrorists. Indeed, probably most Americans, most westerners, assumed that the recent terrorist attack in Norway was perpetrated by Muslim terrorists.

Sociologist Charles Kurzman begs to differ. On the contrary, he says; Why are there so few Muslim terrorists? With the world's Muslim population at more than one billion, Kurzman's goal in this book is to explain why the world does not witness more acts of Islamist terror. One reason is that most Muslims do not share the conviction that targeting innocent civilians is acceptable. Nevertheless, there are still terrorists, Kurzman acknowledges, but there are also many terrorist groups, which means these diverse groups do not always share the same ideology and hence cannot draw from the entire Muslim population. For example, the most general dichotomy we can distinguish is between the "globalist" and "localist" terrorists. Globalists such as Al-Qaeda are not on the same page as localists such as Hamas.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By DMS on June 22, 2014
Format: Hardcover
I just heard the author discussing this book on television. He starts out by saying that there are Islamic terrorists who want to kill you. Then he puts the threat in perspective. He says there were 37 deaths in the United States that can be attributed to Islamic terrorism in this country besides the approximately 3000 on 9/11. There were over 100,000 murders not attributed to Islamic terrorism in the same time period. He says that there are several areas in the world where Islamic terrorism is of great concern but not here. He also points out that the terrorists are having great difficulty recruiting people. The reason, he says is that many Muslims consider terrorism un-Islamic.

This author did not diminish the possibility of Islamic terrorism that could be of concern to us in the United States, but he put the threat in perspective while agreeing that we need to remain vigilant. His voice seems to be reasoned, calming, yet realistic.

I am only adding this comment because of another review whose author neither read the book nor listened to the author, yet attempted to add fear-mongering to the discussion. This book could be a good antidote if he would only read it.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Nitza Berkovitch on March 21, 2013
Format: Hardcover
It's easy to worry about Islamic terrorism, especially since 9/11. It's frightening to think Al Quaeda and other extremists are out there training a new generation of terrorists. But rather than fanning the flames of our fears, THE MISSING MARTYRS puts the treat of Islamic terrorism in context. The author understands that one fatality from terrorism is too many. At the same time, he challenges us to let go of emotional logic in favor of fact. He describes the comparatively low level of terrorism in recent years, compared with all other forms of violence (outside a handful of civil war zones). He presents evidence that most Muslims consider terrorism un-Islamic. He also reports the frustration of terrorist leaders over their significant recruitment failures, and the frequent incompetence among those they have recruited. Kurzman does a beautiful job reporting on the complexity of the response to Islamic terrorism, including the way that Bin Laden is sometimes treated as "chic" (or "sheik" ) by Muslims who do not support or engage in terrorism, much the way Western leftists might use Che Guevara as an icon, (perhaps on a T-shirt) far removed from revolutionary politics.
The premise of the book is audacious. That his book generates objections is evidence of the strength of people's fears. However, Kurzman's argument is seeping into public consciousness. It is worth reading this to see the extent of the evidence he has pulled together on this subject.
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12 of 128 people found the following review helpful By kmc8910 on May 3, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I'll freely admit that I have not read Mr. Kurzman's book, nor do I propose to review it per se, but I AM proposing to refute the stated MESSAGE of his book as ludicrous. Just do a search for "The Evidence: Chronology of Attacks on the West" and try to explain the "absence of terrorists" after spending a few hours absorbing this list. Assembled by Dr. John Lewis and posted in 2004 on the website "Free Republic", it details what militant Muslims have done throughout the world from the early 20th century to the end of 2004 (and of course, MANY more acts of violence have occurred since then). Kidnappings, hijackings, murders, bombings, drive-by shootings...they're all there, in a remarkably detailed list, which shows ANYTHING BUT a lack of terrorists. I wish Mr. Kurzman was correct in his assertion that there are relatively few radical Muslims out there, but current (2012) stats say that 15% of the 1 Billion Muslims in the world are radical, meaning over 150 MILLION radicals are out there...and it only took 19 to pull off 9/11/2001, 2 to bomb the U.S. Cole, etc.. Had Mr. Kurzman checked out this list first (or acknowledged what it says), he may have not had the nerve to publish this text.
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