The Statistical Chance of Being Blown Up by a Muslim (Cont'd)


Goldblog reader David Barulich argues with my argument that a person's chances of being blown-up by a Muslim on an airplane flight are very slight:

First of all, your confidence in boarding your flight and chatting with Muslims is probably created by the pre-flight security check-in rather than by your statistical hypothesis.  But let me address your point more directly: A bit of a flaw in your reasoning about the odds of a Muslim being a terrorist on your flight.
First the relevant population you're sampling is not 1.3 billion Muslims, but the number of Muslims who are likely to fly on airplane flights with 99% non-Muslim passengers, and primarily from Western nations.  That's a much smaller number.  After all, no right-minded jihadi wants to blow up a jet with 200 Muslims on board.
Also, the most likely terrorist demographic are males between the age of 18 to 45.  We're not interested in 60 yr. females wearing the hijab.  So the population from which you're sample is drawn falls further.
Now you say the number directly involved in terrorist activities is tens of thousands at most.  I'd say that the odds now rise to a much higher level.  Maybe not enough to make you worried, but certainly higher than 1 in a 1,000.  Many Muslim terrorists board planes all the time, but don't carry out any successful terrorist acts.  They may be engaged in activities to test the reaction and detection acumen of security forces.
However, we do know that Muslims acting on their belief in Islam are responsible for nearly every terrorist attack upon the US and Western nations during the past 10 years.
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Jeffrey Goldberg is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and a recipient of the National Magazine Award for Reporting. He is the author of Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror. More

Before joining The Atlantic in 2007, Goldberg was a Middle East correspondent, and the Washington correspondent, for The New Yorker. He was previouslly a correspondent for The New York Times Magazine and New York magazine. He has also written for the Jewish Daily Forward and was a columnist for The Jerusalem Post.

Goldberg's book Prisoners was hailed as one of the best books of 2006 by the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Slate, The Progressive, Washingtonian magazine, and Playboy. He received the 2003 National Magazine Award for Reporting for his coverage of Islamic terrorism and the 2005 Anti-Defamation League Daniel Pearl Prize. He is also the winner of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists prize for best international investigative journalist; the Overseas Press Club award for best human-rights reporting; and the Abraham Cahan Prize in Journalism.

In 2001, Goldberg was appointed the Syrkin Fellow in Letters of the Jerusalem Foundation, and in 2002 he became a public-policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.

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