A consortium of researchers dedicated to improving the understanding of the human causes and consequences of terrorism

Threats of violent Islamist and far-right extremism: What does the research say?


On a Tuesday morning in September 2001, the American experience with terrorism was fundamentally altered. Two thousand, nine hundred and ninety-six people were murdered in New York, Virginia and Pennsylvania. Thousands more, including many first responders, lost their lives to health complications from working at or being near Ground Zero.

The 9/11 attacks were perpetrated by Islamist extremists, resulting in nearly 18 times more deaths than America’s second most devastating terrorist attack – the Oklahoma City bombing. More than any other terrorist event in U.S. history, 9/11 drives Americans’ perspectives on who and what ideologies are associated with violent extremism.

But focusing solely on Islamist extremism when investigating, researching and developing counterterrorism policies goes against what the numbers tell us. Far-right extremism also poses a significant threat to the lives and well-being of Americans. This risk is often ignored or underestimated because of the devastating impact of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

We have spent more than 10 years collecting and analyzing empirical data that show us how these ideologies vary in important ways that can inform policy decisions. Our conclusion is that a “one size fits all” approach to countering violent extremism may not be effective.

Publication Information

Full Citation:

Parkin, William, Brent Klein, Jeff Gruenewald, Joshua Freilich, and Steven Chermak. 2017. "Threats of violent Islamist and far-right extremism: What does the research say?" START (February). https://www.start.umd.edu/news/threats-violent-islamist-and-far-right-extremism-what-does-research-say