Home-grown Ideologically motivated far-right extremists have killed close to 500 people since 1990 – and 10 percent were targeted based on religion

By Jeff Gruenewald and William Parkin

Published 1 November 2018

The mass shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh exemplifies an increasingly deadly form of domestic terrorism committed by far-right extremists: the targeting of institutions and individuals due to their religious affiliation. Unfortunately, it’s not new for far-right extremists to vilify non-white, non-Anglo-Saxon and non-Protestant religions. Judaism has endured most of their ideological rage and conspiratorial paranoia. For more than a century, extreme far-right ideologues have peddled anti-Semitic and racist conspiracy theories. Their dogma claims, falsely, that globalist Jews have infiltrated the government and other U.S. institutions, and that Jews and non-whites pose an existential to the white race.

The mass shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh exemplifies an increasingly deadly form of domestic terrorism committed by far-right extremists: the targeting of institutions and individuals due to their religious affiliation.

Unfortunately, it’s not new for far-right extremists to vilify non-white, non-Anglo-Saxon and non-Protestant religions. Judaism has endured most of their ideological rage and conspiratorial paranoia. For more than a century, extreme far-right ideologues have peddled anti-Semitic and racist conspiracy theories. Their dogma claims, falsely, that globalist Jews have infiltrated the government and other U.S. institutions, and that Jews and non-whites pose an existential threat to the white race.

Some more militant members of the extreme far-right have acted on these beliefs by attacking Jewish people and institutions. The ultimate goal for many, according to the information we collect about perpetrator motives, is to ignite a race war in which Anglo-Saxon whites will emerge victorious – such that they can reclaim power over the U.S. political system and social institutions.

Patterns of religious animosity
Since 2006, the U.S. Extremist Crime Database has been a reliable source of information on extreme far-right homicides. We and other terrorism researchers have used this database to understand the nature of violent and non-violent extremist crimes in the U.S.

From 1990 to the present, far-right extremists have committed 217 ideologically motivated homicides. Of these homicides, 19 targeted religious institutions or individuals thought to be associated with a particular religion. Eleven were motivated by anti-Semitism, specifically.

More than three-quarters of these homicides had only one victim; however, many events had multiple fatalities. Due to this, the total number of ideological homicide victims was 490, including the 168 murdered in the Oklahoma City bombing. Of those victims, more than 50 were murdered because the offender targeted an institution or individual based on religious affiliation, real or perceived (see: National Consortium for the Study of Terrorisms and Responses to Terrorism).

Although religious minorities are murdered less frequently than racial and other social minorities, an increasing number of lethal attacks by extreme far-rightists have drawn more attention to this form of violence.

Including the 11 killed at the Tree of Life synagogue, other examples of attacks at religious institutions include the murder of seven at a Baptist church in Texas in 1999; two killed at a Unitarian church in Tennessee in 2008; six killed at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin in 2012; and nine



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