This question https://politics.stackexchange.com/questions/1310/what-percentage-of-american-terrorism-is-domestic-vs-muslim is taking some heat from the community, as pointed out in the comments.

A. I really don't want a lot of comments :)

B. I want to be an example here.

So, what is the non-constructive aspect of this question?

  • I do not think it is non-constructive! Apr 18, 2013 at 15:13
  • I don't see mych non-constructive about it aside from definition of "terrorist" that can cause tons of discussion without being firmly defined. Also, firm up if you want specifically terrorists who explicitly proclaim Islamist goals; or ones who just happen to be Muslim (e.g. PKK aren't in any way Islamist, but they are all Muslim as far as I know).
    – user4012
    Apr 18, 2013 at 15:21
  • Agree! So if PKK are Muslims and are terrorists (according to your claim which I am not pro or against it because I do not have enough knowledge about the reality of this group and their actions) or killer of Norway and many Neo-nazists who are all Christians it doesn't mean they are religious murderers however the killer of Norway had religious extremist beliefs. Apr 18, 2013 at 15:51
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    U know those questions on Stack overflow that have a wall of code, some non-important rambling, and the words "what's wrong" at the bottom? that question was kinda like that. Apr 18, 2013 at 15:56
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    There seems to be a movement on this site toward writing wordy and cited questions as though this was some sort of essay exhibition. It's getting to the point where the questions practically have to answer themselves. Apr 18, 2013 at 15:57
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    +1 everybody. I would just like to say that I need not comment on why the question needed to be fixed before reopening it. Everyone here has given constructive examples of how to fix it.
    – user1873
    Apr 19, 2013 at 1:44

6 Answers 6


I think it was your prose more than the underlying question. It started out as a decent inquiry — what percentage of terrorism is actually domestic? But using the correct vernacular is the earmark of an "expertly"-posed question. Maybe you were going for effect, but When you start to indulge in acerbic rhetoric:

There is this common idea out there that every bomb is set off by a guy in a turban … that common idea should not be beyond scrutiny. What do the data say here?

… you can see where folks might start to call into question the actual purpose of your post.

[Note: I'm not really addressing you here specifically, Affable Geek, but talking over your shoulder to the rest of the community regarding how questions are posed and thus treated.]

Consider my comments here:

… [it a problem when the question] becomes a thinly-veiled excuse debate and soapbox the provocative quotes. Seems you can justify just about any question on this site by ending it with the right buzzwords — as if adding "Are there any studies to support this?" somehow gives it the appearance of canonical objectivity.

I'm not saying that was your objective, but add to that that you had to spend about 80% of the question defining the definitions and terminology and clarifications and context under which it could be answered… and you can start to see why the whole thing starts to look "not constructive."

Let's try this again with what I see as a constructive question — Stack Exchange style:

What percentage of American terrorism acts turns out to be domestic?

Shortly after attacks like the one at the Boston Marathon, the rumors and reporting quickly start to speculate about "Middle-Eastern terrorism." But with all the anti-government and isolationists groups operating in this country, I was wondering if these foreign-involvement assumptions are justified.

Are there studies or statistics about what percentage of terrorist attacks in the US turn out to be domestic?

I know this may be difficult to answer, as the application of terms like "terrorist" and "Muslim" tend to come into question. But any statistics that actually define these terms would help this answer greatly.

See the difference?

  • Good answer overall, but I really don't see any difference between " But with all the anti-government and isolationists groups operating in this country" and "a guy in a turban" as far as being a "intentionally-acerbic rhetoric" that's not constructive.
    – user4012
    Apr 19, 2013 at 13:49
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    @DVK I can't tell if you are kidding. Stating that someone is operating as part of an anti-government or isolationist group isn't more provocative than describing them as "a guy in a turban"? Hey, I like that word better: provocative. I'll use that word instead. Thanks. Apr 19, 2013 at 15:15
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    The former is stealthily pushing a view that there are major "anti-government or isolationist group" - which in the opinion of many on the left includes most of the right such as Tea Party - that perform terrorist attacks as part of their strategy/tactics. I don't see how that adds any more value than "guy in a turban" to the question aside from pushing that viewpoint (if you disagree, think how it'd sound if you replaced "anti-government or isolationist group" with "environmentalist groups" - meaning a small and insignificant ELF but stealthily implying all environmentalists).
    – user4012
    Apr 19, 2013 at 15:28

The problem comes from the false dichotomy presented as the premise to the question.

One option for resolving this would be inquiring about the origin, domestic vs foreign. Another would be to inquire about the motivations, ie eco-terrorism/anarchist/religious/etc.

The question sinks itself into deep trouble by failing to understand this separation. Think about the fact that you can have domestic Islamic terrorism, and you'll see where you've inappropriately divided your question.

Questions like this have an inherently sensitive nature, and they can quickly get out of control if the asker errs on their line of inquiry. I would advise splitting this into two or more questions, starting from domestic vs foreign.


The topic of terrorism is broad, ill defined, and often politically spun.

As such, attempting to distill it down into two categories, domestic vs. muslim is awkward, at best. For starters, the two categories aren't necessarily mutually exclusive. In addition, even though you made a disclaimer, the term 'muslim terrorism' is still a bit loaded.

As it is now, it's in this murky broad-but-sorta-specific no mans land. I'd try to either ask a more specific question, or less specific question.

'more specific' example:

How many terrorist acts directed at the united states have been claimed to be perpetrated by Islamic Extremists/Terrorist Organizations?

'less specific' example:

Has there been any sort of classification of terrorist acts directed at the United States?

  • Islamic is not a good term to use. PKK is an Islamic terrorist organization. It is, however, NOT Islamist, but purely nationalist, and therefore can not be lumped together with Al-Quaeda (it's just a Kurdish version of Basques' ETA)
    – user4012
    Apr 19, 2013 at 14:03
  • @dvk excellent point and only shows that it's a tough range of concepts to clearly define/delineate.
    – user1530
    Apr 19, 2013 at 15:18
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    @DVK Islamic means a group who are behaving according to Islamic rules but PKK is a secular group and fights for an independent country for Kurds not for an Islamic republic of Kurds! Islamic and Islamist in politics means behaving according to Islamic rules and Extremist Islamist is equal to "Jihadi" groups who believe in Islamic Jihad and doing anything for establishing an Islamic country or government even terrorism. Apr 19, 2013 at 19:38
  • @PersianCat - PKK is not really secular - Kurds are Muslim. However, its goals are secular, as you noted, which is why it can't be called Islamist.
    – user4012
    Apr 19, 2013 at 20:19
  • @DVK You pointed to a very good matter. It is the point that me and some others are trying to improve the question to not make such mistake with calling Islamic and Muslim terrorism only because they are Muslim. If so why you do not call the other terrorist groups of Europe, Christian terrorists? They are all Christians! When you call a terrorist group Islamic and Islamist without considering that if they are really "Jihadi terrorists" or only some terrorists who are Muslim too it makes hate and misunderstanding against Muslims. Apr 19, 2013 at 20:35
  • @PersianCat - Islamic is about membership. Islamist is about goals. Jihadi is about methods and ideological backing behind methods. 3 slightly different things (though some groups can be all 3).
    – user4012
    Apr 19, 2013 at 20:37
  • Sure! And some groups can be none of them or some not all! What about Christian terrorists? Why is not there such classification? And what does membership mean as Islamic? Apr 19, 2013 at 23:57
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    @DVK PKK is far left / marxist, religion is of little importance to its members and its goals, it's strictly a secular organization. Kurds are overwhelmingly Muslim, that's true, however saying that PKK "is not really secular" is... funny. ~75% of the US self identify as Christians, does that make the US "not really secular"?
    – yannis
    Apr 21, 2013 at 8:38
  • @YannisRizos - "US" is secular... sorta... however any specific grouping of Americans that is close to 100% Christian can be called Christian, semantically. Think YMCA. PKK being nationalist/marxist is precisely the distinction I'm trying to make.
    – user4012
    Apr 21, 2013 at 22:44

Here are issues I see with the question

  • It has some grammar issues. The sentences don't flow together very well. You use the passive voice too much. You are also rambling.

  • You're including too much extra stuff. The labeling of the Boston Marathon really shouldn't affect the answer. Your clarification regarding "Muslim" and "claims to be Muslim" doesn't really clarify anything at all.
    I suspect that you were trying to avoid answers that tell you that supposed "Muslim" terrorists aren't actually Islamic.

  • You are really asking 2-3 questions questions

    1. What percentage of terrorist attacks are domestic?
    2. What percentage of terrorist attacks are not motivated by Islam?
    3. What is the breakdown of terrorist by motivation?

The question was re-posted by another user, using the improved phrasing Robert suggested. Therefore I removed Affable's version, I see no reason to keep around two versions of essentially the same question.

I would like to ask everyone to refrain from starting yet another round of side-discussions in comments on the new question. If you feel you are knowledgeable enough about the subject matter, please provide an answer to the question, preferably backed up by solid references.


It's a good idea to remember that Stack Exchange is populated by people who either work with computers, or use computers in their work. As a result, they prefer questions that lend themselves to "binary" answers, or least can be broken down in a flow chart. Robert's example came closer to meeting this standard than the original one (although both were closed).

"Geeks" like you and me are supposed to be good at this sort of thing (although sometimes we aren't).

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