Sunday, March 27, 2016

Literally Every Muslim Country

In an impassioned takedown of Sally Kohn's rhetoric, the following statement was made in a previous post:

"Literally every muslim country on the planet is embroiled in conflict, and the problem is so dire that Nobel prizes are given to anybody that is willing to put down a gun or fortunately managed to survive an assassination attempt."

A conscientious reader objected - it must be noted that challenges like these is what makes writing interesting in the first place:

Even if we consider countries with "skirmishes and clashes that kill less than 100 people a year" to be "at conflict," there are still plenty of Muslim-majority countries that aren't at conflict. Just to name a few: Albania, Morocco, Malaysia, Jordan, Oman, Mauritania, Senegal, and Kazakhstan.
If we use a more sensible definition and only consider conflicts that kill at least 1,000 people in a year, then only about 10 out of the 50 Muslim-majority countries in the world are in conflict. That's terrible, but to say that "ever Muslim country in the world is in conflict" is still beyond ridiculous.

While the reasonable thing to do would be to backtrack from the possibly exaggerated use of the word "literally", the entertaining thing to do is to double-down and defend the idea that indeed literally every muslim country has a real problem with Islamist conflict.

For example, Senegal arrested 500 people while investigating a network related to attacks in Mali and Burkina Faso. Typically the detention of 500 people can reasonably be labelled a "conflict".

As for Morocco, it's own share of Islamist terror attacks. Authorities in Morocco, a country of only 30 million and the ancestral home of the Brussels attackers, are probably not waiting until the death toll reaches 1000 annually to realize that it has a problem. Similarly, few are planning a destination wedding in Jordan.

Mauritania had a coup d'├ętat in 2008, killed some French tourists in 2007, and blew up bombs outside the French embassy in 2009.

Kazakhstan manages Islamists by deporting people that it thinks proselytize too much. The approach taken is not too far from that of neighboring Tajikistan, which apparently took to shaving the beards of 13,000 to battle "radicalism". Apparently a nation can become an idyllic Islamic republic by managing religion as Donald Trump would.

It is true that Malaysia is quite peaceful, which can be credited to Malaysia's vigilance, tolerance, and success in keeping Valentine's day in check.

Last on the list of muslim countries that apparently have their head on straight are Oman and Albania, accounting for a sum total of six million people existing in comically dysfunctional states.

Given all this, it seems more than fair to describe the entire muslim world as a series of countries that are failed states. A nation in this set can only qualify as a success story when viewed in the "context" of the disaster that surrounds many of them. That is, good marks are only granted when graded on the curve made only of other muslim nations.

Perhaps it is unfair to say "literally every muslim country is embroiled in conflict". More accurate may be to say "literally every muslim country is embroiled in careless corrosive chauvinist corpulence".

View of countries aside, the comment also contained a criticism of the claim that 1% of Belgian muslim men of fighting age have joined ISIS:

Your calculations assume that Belgian Muslims have the same age distribution as the general Belgium population. Given that A) many Belgian Muslims are immigrants and B) Belgian Muslims have a higher birth rate than non-Muslim Belgians, that is almost
certainly incorrect.

Also, given that 2/3 of American and 31% of British Islamic terrorists have been converts, it seems likely that a significant portion of Belgian ISIS fighters weren't Muslim before they joined ISIS.
Absolutely correct - if the Belgian muslim population is not fixed to the Belgium's published population pyramid, then the calculation changes. And born-again bombers do change the calculations even more. This is even more reason for papers to do the "problematic" math and gather the relevant data instead of merely chanting about the moderate "1.6 billion muslims" that are said to exist some number of thousands of miles away.

An analysis of converts would be particularly interesting, as it may turn out that the number of David Headleys and Jihad Johns far outnumber the "marginalized" fighters that liberal journalists like to believe inhabit Islamist circles.

It is not recommend to hold one's breath while waiting for these survey results.

Fixing the New York Times' stupid chart

For quite some time the New York Times has been a fan of a specific visualization that it hopes explain the threat Islamists pose to Americans.

The visual:

The big absurdity in this is that the assumption is that Americans don't exist outside the bounds of the United States. In reality, Americans register about 30 million overseas trips a year. That's about the entire state of Texas deciding to hop on a plane and leave the continent, every single year.

So what happens when one starts counting American citizens killed abroad by jihadists?

A short crappy analysis of recent attacks globally (fixed to NYTimes' timescale) and excluding Iraq and Afghanistan, yields the following table of fatalities which is definitely an underestimate:

2002 Bali Bombings (7)
2002 Daniel Pearl (1)
2002 Zamboanga City bombings (1)
2003 Riyadh car bombings (9)
2004 Riyadh compound bombings (9)
2004 Shooting in Yanbu, Saudi Arabia (2)
2005 Bali bombings  (6)
2006 Karachi car bombing (David Foy) (1)
2008 Mumbai attacks (David Headley charged with killing 6) (6)
2012 Yemen shooting of English teacher (1)
2012 Benghazi (4)
2015 Bombing in Garoowe, Somalia (1)
2015 November Paris attacks (1)
2016 Brussels attacks (2)
2016 Tel Aviv knife attack (1)

Adding this to the NYTimes data, we get the following yearly running total counts:

2002 : 2 domestic + 9 overseas = 11
2003: 2 domestic + 18 overseas = 20
2004: 2 domestic + 27 overseas = 29
2005: 2 domestic + 33 overseas = 35
2006: 3 domestic + 34 overseas = 37
2007: 3 domestic + 34 overseas = 37
2008: 3 domestic + 40 overseas  = 43
2009: 17 domestic + 40 overseas = 57
2010: 17 domestic + 40 overseas = 57
2011: 17 domestic + 40 overseas = 57
2012: 17 domestic + 45 overseas = 62
2013: 21 domestic + 45 overseas  = 66
2014: 26 domestic + 45 overseas = 71
2015: 45 domestic + 48 overseas = 93
2016: 45 domestic + 51 overseas = 96

The actual graph then becomes something like: (Islamist attack fatalities in green)

The takeaway is that jihadis domestically killed as many as every other group of nutjobs combined, (racists, anti-abortionists, tax protesters...) and then managed at least double their casualty count in operations overseas. 

Hopefully one cannot be blamed for not having a New York Times graphics department to select the correct tone, hue and beautifully stitch the line together. Much more time was invested in actually compiling and thinking about the data, and even then the information is full of omissions - both accidental (the count of overseas deaths is actually closer to 87 when using Department of State data, eyeballing Wikipedia data is what resulted in a count of 51) and intentional.

An example of such intentional omission, in this chart and New York Times', is the deaths of Leila Mazloum, Leila Taleb, Hussein Mostapha. They were residents of Dearborn, Michigan that were killed in a bombing in Lebanon in 2015 -- however these deaths do not actually count. They do not count as the bombing did not happen in Michigan, and they do not count as none of them actually have citizenship. Therefore in the view of the New York Times, they are doubly not Americans.

An exercise for the reader (if not the New York Times graphics department) is to improve on this lazy correction and actually publish the experiences of Americans without the myopic, provincial view of what qualifies as the "real" "domestic" threat.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Fact Checking Sally Kohn

One cannot be faulted for not knowing who Sally Kohn is. For those that need an update, Sally Kohn is basically an off-brand Rachel Maddow. Kohn makes up for her lack of charm by being edgy and "factual" on Twitter.

One of these facts was shared recently:

The article, titled "Muslims Are Not Terrorists: A Factual Look at Terrorism and Islam" is filled with the usual falsehoods about Islam that have already been debunked. But let's go over all of them again, for Sally's sake.

The "facts":
1. Non-Muslims make up the majority of terrorists in the United States: According to the FBI, 94% of terrorist attacks carried out in the United States from 1980 to 2005 have been by non-Muslims. This means that an American terrorist suspect is over nine times more likely to be a non-Muslim than a Muslim. According to this same report, there were more Jewish acts of terrorism in the United States than Islamic, yet when was the last time we heard about the threat of Jewish terrorism in the media? For the same exact reasons that we cannot blame the entire religion of Judaism or Christianity for the violent actions of those carrying out crimes under the names of these religions, we have absolutely no justifiable grounds to blame Muslims for terrorism.

Absurd. As explained before, the data treats 9/11 as a single event - and every eco-terrorist "attack" as a single event. Perhaps Sally Kohn believes Greenpeace is as threatening as al-Qaeda.

2. Non-Muslims make up the majority of terrorists in Europe: There have been over one thousand terrorist attacks in Europe in the past five years. Take a guess at what percent of those terrorists were Muslim. Wrong, now guess again. It’s less than 2%.

Absurd for several reasons. If one follows the links from HuffPo to ThinkProgress to finally the EU paper cited, the data clearly does not come out in Islam's favor. For example, the Islamist attacks of recent memory managed to kill fifty-five times more people than all of the 152 "attacks" by non-muslims in 2013. Furthermore, the wishful figures do not include any analysis of arrest rates, which has been increasing for religiously motivated terrorists and decreasing for every other group.

To add insult to injury - like many of the figures cited about the United States, the European figures do not even bother counting deaths of Europeans killed by Islamists outside of Europe.

3. Even if all terrorist attacks were carried out by Muslims, you still could not associate terrorism with Islam: There have been 140,000 terror attacks committed worldwide since 1970. Even if Muslims carried out all of these attacks (which is an absurd assumption given the fact mentioned in my first point), those terrorists would represent less than 0.00009 percent of all Muslims. To put things into perspective, this means that you are more likely to be struck by lightening in your lifetime than a Muslim is likely to commit a terrorist attack during that same timespan.

Absurd.  Think of the conclusion of this. Essentially, the argument is that Islam could be responsible for all terrorism, and presumably also all FGM, polygamy, domestic violence, etc - yet still be blameless due to some entirely unexplained population-based moral reasoning. It's completely nonsense.

If one still accepts the premise anyways, applying the appropriate data controls results in a vastly different number. In the case of Belgium, as high as 1% of muslim men between 20 and 29 years old may have left to fight in Syria/Iraq. This is appropriate filter of those that have means and opportunity - Molenbeek does not become less of a problem simply because a HuffingtonPost blogger decided to put all the senior citizens in Indonesia in their chart.

4. If all Muslims are terrorists, then all Muslims are peacemakers: The same statistical assumptions being used to falsely portray Muslims as violent people can be used more accurately to portray Muslims as peaceful people. If all Muslims are terrorists because a single digit percentage of terrorists happen to be Muslim, then all Muslims are peacemakers because 5 out of the past 12 Nobel Peace Prize winners (42 percent) have been Muslims.

Absurd. Literally every muslim country on the planet is embroiled in conflict, and the problem is so dire that Nobel prizes are given to anybody that is willing to put down a gun or fortunately managed to survive an assassination attempt. If this makes one a peacemaker, then anyone that manages to at least keep the entrance of their apartment clean is then an impeccable homemaker.

5. If you are scared of Muslims then you should also be scared of household furniture and toddlers: A study carried out by the University of North Carolina showed that less than 0.0002% of Americans killed since 9/11 were killed by Muslims. (Ironically, this study was done in Chapel Hill: the same place where a Caucasian non-Muslim killed three innocent Muslims as the mainstream media brushed this terrorist attack off as a parking dispute). Based on these numbers, and those of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the average American is more likely to be crushed to death by their couch or television than they are to be killed by a Muslim. As a matter of fact, Americans were more likely to be killed by a toddler in 2013 than they were by a so-called “Muslim terrorist”.
When a drunk driver causes a car accident, we never blame the car manufacturer for the violent actions of that driver. This is because we understand that we cannot blame an entire car company that produces millions of safe vehicles just because one of their cars was hijacked by a reckless person who used it to cause harm. So what right do we have to blame an entire religion of over 1.6 Billion peaceful people because of the actions of a relatively insignificant few?

Pure ignorance. It's offensive, insulting and crazy to believe that Islamism isn't a problem until it approaches the accidental death rate in a country of 300 million people. Imagine if the Pope made an apologetic speech - "Things are bad, but statistically speaking your child is far more likely to be hit by a car than be raped by a priest." Truly winning hearts and minds.

Thankfully the United States is a very safe country - because it has a functioning government. Americans are more likely to be killed in mundane ways simply because the Department of Homeland Security and other organizations are at least somewhat effective. If planes, trains, drugs, automobiles, alcohol, chicken wings and toddlers happen to kill more people than Islamists, then please do call the NTSB, DEA, ATF, CPSC, FDA and CDC. It is the entire reason these organizations exist.

Americans may be Islamophobes or not - but let's not pretend that Americans are not also Salmonellaophobes. Recall that United States is ready to close borders and quarantine all the nurses just as soon as anyone says the word "ebola".

If Americans put focus on Islamism as they put on other issues, one would need to be 21 years old to enter a mosque. Chris Hansen would be asking catfished jihadis to have a seat. It is ultimately foolish to make the comparison between Islamism and "the real issues" when one does not fully grasp how much effort is put into "the real issues".

Muslims should be thanking Allah and all his silly prophets that they not treated like casual marijuana users. For it's comedy that while it's legal to circumcise one's sons and force women to wear uniforms, it's a very serious crime to sample cannabis.

Let's simply treat Islam as if it were an adult Justin Bieber. Irresponsible, narcissistic, and given too many excuses.

Is that so hard?