In the media

Terrorism: Threat vs reality

Julian Wucherpfenning tells 42 Magazine the perception is disproportionate to the actual threat.

42: Prof. Dr Wucherpfennig, when talking about terrorism nowadays, on the basis of terrorist attacks of the past months, we think about Islamist terrorism. From a scientific perspective, is that proportional to the actual extent of the threat?

Julian Wucherpfennig: No, this perception bears no relation to the actual threat. In two respects: First, the objective threat emanated from the terror in Western Europe is minimal. It is far more likely to drown in one’s own bathtub, to be struck by lightning or to be killed from furniture falling over, than to be killed in a terrorist attack. Secondly, the threat is in no way greater than in the past. Terrorism in a greater extent has existed in Western Europe since the 1960s and 70s, for example through the RAF in German, the ETA in Spain, or the IRA in Ireland. The assumption that there has been more or a new type of terrorism is fundamentally wrong. Looking at statistics from Western Europe, the number of victims of terrorism was higher in the 80s than in recent years. However, Islamic terrorism, at least in the recent past of Western Europe, is relatively new. Islamic terrorism has not come from non-EU citizens to a significant extent – 94% of all terrorists had a European passport. Therefore, there is no stringent evidence that refugees lead to a greater risk of terrorism. If anything, the movement is towards the opposite direction: EU-citizens travel to countries from which streams of refugees flee, train there and come back with planned attacks. Simultaneously another form of terrorism, against Muslims, has arisen as well. This right extremist form of terrorism, however, is often overlooked.


Read the full interview in 42 Magazine here.


Julian Wucherpfennig spoke with 42 Magazine, a new online publication that interviews scholars from leading institutions around the globe on a single topic each issue. The current issue is devoted to terrorism. 42 Magazine was co-founded by Hertie School MIA student Tabea Breternitz.