Based on the evidence we've examined so far, we find Irshad Manji's statement to be "Half True," In a panel discussion hosted by Christiane Amanpour on ABC's This Week
, she claimed that "al-Qaeda kills more Muslims than any other foreign imperial power in the world." However, we could not find any conclusive evidence to support or
refute this claim. Though it is stated as a matter of fact, this claim is subject to a variety of interpretations, and none of the sources we checked can confirm Manji's assertion.
We asked Manji for clarification, because it appeared her statement could be interpreted in two different ways. Consider the quote when it follows from her preceding statement:
"The highest number of victims that al-Qaeda has are Muslims. In other words, al-Qaeda kills more Muslims than any other foreign imperial power in the world." (emphasis added)
We considered the possibility that Manji meant to say that "al-Qaeda kills more Muslims than [it kills citizens of] any other foreign imperial power in the world." When asked for clarification, though, Manji confirmed
: "I meant more Muslims are killed by al-Qaeda than by
any foreign imperial power." When we asked for factual evidence to support that claim, she provided a link to the "Deadly Vanguards" study from the Combating Terrorism Center
, as well as her own 2009 blog post summarizing the study
. Both of these sources support the claim that "The highest number of victims that al-Qaeda has are Muslims," but they do not shed any light on whether "al-Qaeda kills more Muslims than any other foreign imperial power in the world."
Many of our Truthsquad
participants wrestled with the ambiguity of Manji's claim. Lynn Caporale
pointed out that the statement could be interpreted to be true if it concerned only Muslim civilians targeted intentionally, but not if it addressed all Muslims, including organized combatants. Christoph Wienands
also pointed out that Manji "does not distinguish between civilian and militant/terrorist casualties," so presumably the number of Muslims killed by U.S.-led forces should include organized combatants, not just civilians. Many Truthsquad
participants thought it was unlikely that al-Qaeda could have killed more Muslims than U.S.-led forces have over time.
However, Manji's statement was made in the present tense, so her statement could be interpreted as applying to current events, rather than the histories of the ongoing conflicts. As pointed out in the latest Iraq Body Count
study, non-state terrorist actions killed nearly 50 times more Iraqi civilians than coalition forces did in 2009, which suggests that Manji's statement is plausible. This statistic does not distinguish between al-Qaeda actions and those of other terrorist organizations, though, nor does it teach us anything about the facts outside of Iraq, so it can't be seen as convincing evidence for Manji's claim.
Overall, Manji's main point is that al-Qaeda kills a lot of Muslims, and this strikes us as a reasonable statement. However, she appears to have overreached in her claim that al-Qaeda kills more Muslims than any state actor does. For this reason, we find her statement to be half true.
-- Jon Mitchell
, on behalf of NewsTrust Editors
P.S.: Do you agree with our findings? Tell us what you think in our comments section
. We had a lively discussion on this topic, so be sure to read what other participants thought of this quote before adding your comment.