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Putting terrorism in proportion

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At a memorial site Aug. 21, a policeman hugs a boy and his family who he helped during the terrorist attack on Las Ramblas in Barcelona, Spain.

©Santi Palacios/The Associated Press

London in March: five dead. Stockholm in April: another five dead. Manchester in May: 22 dead. London again in June, this time on London Bridge: eight dead. Barcelona in August: 15 dead. Five mass-casualty terrorist attacks in Europe in six months, and all but one (Manchester) carried out using rental trucks. Is it safe to go to Europe anymore?

No, of course not. It isn’t safe to live anywhere. You can get killed by a vehicle driven by a non-terrorist, or by falling down the stairs, or even by drowning in the bath. Indeed, you are far likelier to die from any of those causes than from terrorist attacks no matter where you live in the world. But in those other cases your death will not be “news.”

The only part of the world where Islamist terrorism really is a serious threat to people’s lives is the greater Middle East (including Pakistan). There is a kind of civil war between modernizers and cultural conservatives going on in many Muslim-majority countries, and the terrorist threat to ordinary citizens’ lives is 10 or 20 times higher than it is in the West. But even there it is far smaller than it looks.

© The Telegram