Webster’s Dictionary defines terrorism as the "calculated use of violence (or threat of violence) against civilians in order to attain goals that are political or religious or ideological in nature.” To hear neocons, Republicans, the Christian right and the so-called alt-right tell it, such violence is exercised primarily by Muslims and people of color. But history does not bear that out in the least, especially in the United States. For all the damage they've inflicted, Jihadist organizations such as ISIS, al-Qaeda and the Taliban do not have the market cornered on violent extremism. While it’s true that the deadliest terrorist attack in U.S. history—al-Qaeda’s assault on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on 9/11—was carried out by far-right Islamists, most of the country’s recent domestic terrorist activity has come from a combination of white supremacists, white nationalists, neo-Nazis, extreme Christianists and far-right militia groups.
From the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, which killed 168 people, to Christianist Jim David Adkisson’s rampage at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian University Church in Knoxville, Tennessee, on July 27, 2008, far-right white terrorism has posed the most persistent domestic terrorist threat in the U.S. And under President Donald Trump, white extremists have grown emboldened, as evidenced by the murder of activist Heather D. Heyer in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August.
We may never know the motivations or political ideology of the Las Vegas shooter, but one thing is for certain: that is one mass killing that Fox News and Ann Coulter won’t be able to blame on people of color. Here are 10 disturbing examples of terrorism carried out by white supremacists, white nationalists or radical Christianists in recent years.
1. Emanuel AME Church massacre, June 17, 2015.
The Charleston, South Carolina-based Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, aka Mother Emanuel, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Booker T. Washington and many others spoke from the pulpit, has a long history of fighting for civil rights. It was all the more tragic that white supremacist Dylann Roof targeted the iconic church for a racially motivated act of domestic terrorism. Roof shot and killed nine people during a prayer service simply because they were black, including the Rev. Clementa C. Pinckney, a South Carolina state senator. The killer, charged with multiple counts of murder, said he was hoping to launch a race war.
2. The shootings of Srinivas Kuchibhotla and Alok Madasani, February 22, 2017.
Srinivas Kuchibhotla and Alok Madasani, two Indian immigrants legally working as engineers in the U.S., were having a drink at Austin’s Bar and Grill in Olathe, Kansas, on February 22, when according to Madasani, they were confronted by an angry, middle-aged white man demanding to know if they were in the U.S. legally. “Get out of my country,” he threatened them.
About 30 minutes later, witnesses said, the man returned with a gun and shot them both. Kuchibhotla was killed, while Madasani survived, and a third man, Ian Grillot, was wounded when he tried to intervene. Adam Purinton, the alleged shooter, was charged with premeditated murder and attempted murder before being indicted on federal hate crime charges.
3. The killing of Heather D. Heyer, August 12, 2017.
Fifty-three years after Ku Klux Klan members murdered white civil rights workers Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner in Mississippi, along with their African-African ally James Chaney, anti-racist activist Heather D. Heyer was killed by vehicular assault on Aug. 12, 2017, in Charlottesville, Virginia.
The Unite the Right rally drew hundreds of racists, including KKK members, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, skinheads, far-right militia members and Christianists, and the 32-year-old Heyer was among the hundreds of counter-protesters. Justin Moore, a KKK grand dragon, praised the killing, saying he was “glad that girl died," not unlike the Klansmen and neo-Nazis who celebrated the terrorist murders of Goodman, Chaney and Schwerner in 1964.
4. Minnesota Islamic Center bombing, August 5, 2017.
A report by the Council on American-Islamic Relations found that hate crimes against Muslims in the U.S. increased by 584 percent between 2014 and 2016. During the first half of 2017, CAIR reported 134 individual anti-Muslim hate crimes. On Aug. 5, 2017, the Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington, Minnesota, was bombed while attendees were gathering for morning prayers. Had ISIS bombed a Christian church, it would have received round-the-clock coverage from Fox News and AM talk radio. But the terrorist attack on the Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center was barely mentioned in the right-wing media. (Thankfully, there were no injuries.)
5. The stabbing of Timothy Caughman, March 20, 2017.
White supremacist and confessed killer James Harris Jackson did not know Timothy Caughman, the 66-year-old African American he fatally stabbed in midtown Manhattan on March 20, 2017. Jackson confessed that he traveled from Baltimore to New York City that day “for the purpose of killing black men,” and Caughman had the misfortune of being chosen at random—a killing Jackson said “was practice” for a larger terrorist attack he planned to carry out against black men in Times Square. Jackson, who was charged with first- and second-degree murder, said his motive was to discourage black men from dating white women.
6. The Portland commuter train stabbings, May 26, 2017.
On May 26, Ricky John Best, Taliesin Myrddin Namkai Meche and Micah David-Cole Fletcher were passengers on a commuter train in Portland, Oregon when they witnessed a white man threatening and verbally abusing two women—one of whom was wearing a hijab—and screaming Islamophobic insults at them. When the passengers intervened, witnesses said, the man attacked them with a knife. Best and Meche died, while Fletcher was treated for serious injuries. Jeremy Joseph Christian, who was charged with murder, had a history of expressing white supremacist, anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic views.
7. The shooting of Deep Rai, March 3, 2017.
The climate of fear and Islamophobia that has plagued the U.S. since the 9/11 attacks has imperiled not only Muslims, but also Sikhs and Hindus who have been mistakenly targeted in hate crimes. Four days after 9/11, Frank Silva Roque shot Balbir Singh Sodhi (a Sikh immigrant from India who owned a gas station in Mesa, Arizona) five times, killing him; Roque, convicted of first-degree murder, was sentenced to life in prison.
More recently, Deep Rai, a 39-year-old Sikh and Indian immigrant, was attacked by a gunman outside his home in Kent, Washington, on March 3, 2017. According to Rai, the assailant, described as a tall, stocky white man, pushed him to the ground and said, “Go back to your own country” before shooting him in the arm (Rai’s wounds were not fatal). After the attack, a Sikh activist in Seattle reported that there has been a “distinct escalation” of “hate incidents” against Seattle-area Sikhs in 2017.
8. Arson attacks on mosques, January 14 and 27, 2017.
According to a study by professor Brian Levin for the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino, hate crimes have increased nationwide by about 5 percent from 2015 to 2016. In August, the Council on American-Islamic Relations reported that attacks on mosques in the U.S. have been frighteningly common in 2017. CNN’s analysis of CAIR data found 63 examples of mosques being targeted for threats, arson or vandalism between January and July of this year—an average of nine incidents per month and at least two per week.
On January 14, the Islamic Center of Eastside in Bellevue, Washington, a Seattle suburb, was burned to the ground. The Houston office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms, Tobacco and Explosives determined a separate fire that destroyed the Victoria Islamic Center on January 27 was a product of arson. Although there were no injuries in either incident, both attacks demonstrate that CAIR has every reason to be concerned about the safety of Muslims in the U.S.