The attack seems to fit with a pattern of growing attacks on Muslims, which corresponds to a heavy focus on the threat of Islamist terror attacks, both in Europe and in the United States. London Mayor Sadiq Khan said in early June that hate crimes against Muslims had spiked after an ISIS-inspired attack on London Bridge. In the United States, a man has been charged with hate crimes after he shot two Indian men in Kansas, killing one; the defendant, Adam Purinton, told a bartender he had shot two “Iranians.” In May, two men died in Portland after being stabbed when they tried to stop a man who was delivering an anti-Muslim tirade against two women on a commuter train. (A Muslim teenager was abducted and killed after leaving a mosque in Fairfax, Virginia, on Sunday. Police there say there’s no indication she was assaulted based on her race or religion, but added “it’s not definitive.”)
Meanwhile, there are other forms of anti-Muslim violence cropping up around the world. In Eastern Europe, vigilante groups are patrolling borders to try to intercept Muslim refugees. In Australia, an anti-Muslim gang has taken to walking the streets of Melbourne, putatively to deter crime.
Terrorist attacks against Muslims are not a new phenomenon. Anti-Islam hate crimes have been elevated in the U.S. since 9/11, and in 2012 a man killed six people at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, and it was speculated the shooter had confused the turban-wearing adherents for Muslims. While ironclad statistics are impossible to come by, the concentration of terror attacks in predominantly Muslim countries guarantees that Muslims make up by far the greatest number of victims of terror attacks worldwide. “In cases where the religious affiliation of terrorism casualties could be determined, Muslims suffered between 82 and 97 percent of terrorism-related fatalities over the past five years,” the U.S. government’s National Counterterrorism Center calculated in 2011—before the rise of ISIS.
The grim accounting is clear that the number of deaths in these attacks against Muslims in the West still stands below the number of fatalities in jihadist attacks in Europe and the United States. In purpose, however, the attacks are similar: The death toll is always just one part of a terrorist attack, along with the intent to intimidate and to force changes in government policy.
Meanwhile, despite the attention to recent attacks in London and Paris, among others, the number of jihadist attacks in Europe seems to be on a downward trend. A report released last week by Europol, the EU’s police agency, found there were 13 jihadist attacks within the union in 2016, down from 17 in 2015. The 13 attacks paled in comparison with the 99 incidents over the same year involving ethno-nationalists and separatist extremists, although the jihadist attacks produced almost all of the deaths. Still, the total of jihadist victims, 135, was also down from the 2015 total of 150, though the two huge attacks in Paris that year accounted for most of those deaths.