Muslims 'absolutely' the group most victimized by global terrorism, researchers say

This week's terrorist attack targeting people leaving a London mosque after Ramadan prayers is part of a wider phenomenon, in which Muslims are the most affected by terrorism around the world, researchers told ABC News.

While attacks by Muslims against non-Muslims in Europe have dominated headlines recently, researchers from the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START), a research and education center at the University of Maryland, believe that Muslims are in fact the most likely victims of terrorism worldwide.

Attacks target Muslims in the Middle East and beyond

START Executive Director William Braniff and his team studied the causes and human consequences of terrorism, compiling details about attacks like the one that took place in London on Monday. What they found is that — although they did not always have information about the religious beliefs of the victims — Muslims were the most affected overall.

"In the Middle East, Muslims are the most likely victims of both terrorism and counterterrorism efforts," Braniff told ABC News.

His point of view may come as a surprise to Westerners who think about terrorism only as high-profile attacks carried out in the U.S. and Europe, such as the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and the mass shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando last year. But when he and his team looked at terrorism more comprehensively, including regions like the Middle East and Africa, it became clear that Muslims are most frequently targeted, he said.

On May 30, for example, ISIS killed 31 people in Iraq in dual bombings. One attack used a car bomb, and the other targeted a popular ice cream shop in central Baghdad, according to The Associated Press. But those bombings drew significantly less attention from Western media than the suicide bombing at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England, that took place May 22. In the Manchester attack, Salman Ramadan Abedi killed more than 20 people and left dozens of others injured, according to authorities.

But Braniff stressed that Muslims face threats from terrorism outside the Middle East as well. He said that START researchers found an increase over the past several years in terrorism-related violence against Muslims in the 35 member nations of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, an intergovernmental economic organization that includes the U.S. and much of Europe.

"Here, we've seen an increase in attacks perpetrated by Islamic extremists but also terrorist attacks targeted against Muslims," he said.

Attacks on the rise in the West but result in fewer fatalities

Erin Miller, the program manager of START's Global Terrorism Database, which tracks attacks going back to 1970, agreed that attacks against Muslims are on the rise and offered some insight into why they don't always garner the same media attention.

"There are many attacks against Muslims in the West, but they are frequently less lethal," she told ABC News.

Miller cited a report by a German media group that said there were 3,533 attacks on refugees and refugee hostels in Germany in 2016. Those attacks injured 560 people, including 43 children, according to the report, but did not result in any fatalities.

Monday's attack in London, outside the Finsbury Park Mosque, injured at least 10 people, and one person died, but it is unclear if his death was a direct result of the attack.

Miller said that it is frequently difficult to determine the difference between what is referred to as a hate crime in the U.S. and terrorism directed against Muslims, although that distinction isn't the most important one to make when determining what groups are most often targeted by violence.

"The distinction between whether something is terrorism or a hate crime is often not very useful in this discussion," she said. "It's an artificial distinction."

The FBI defines a terrorist act as "a violent act or an act dangerous to human life, in violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any state, to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives."

The bureau defines a hate crime as "a traditional offense like murder, arson or vandalism, with an added element of bias."

Muslims are threatened by both terrorism and hate crimes in the West, according to Miller.

Criticism of Trump's response to non-Muslim attacks

President Trump has frequently been criticized by human rights groups for not speaking out against the white supremacist contingent of his base more vociferously and for failing to respond promptly to violence that affects Muslims, rather than violence that is perpetrated by them.

"It's like pulling teeth to get President Trump to respond to terror attacks on Muslims," Ibrahim Hooper of the Council on American-Islamic Relations said in a statement.

Hooper criticized Trump's response to the mosque attack in London and to the killing of 17-year-old Nabra Hassanen in Virginia. She was attacked near the mosque she attended, in what appears to be a road-rage-related episode, according to police.

"His silence or his delay really sends a negative message to the American Muslim community that their lives and their safety are not as important as the lives and safety of other citizens," Hooper added.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment regarding the president's response to Monday's terrorist attack in London or attacks on Muslims in general.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer said in an off-camera press briefing on Monday that the administration's "thoughts and prayers" were with the victims of the mosque attack in London and that Trump was receiving updates about it.

The president's Twitter account, which he frequently uses to denounce terrorist attacks perpetrated by Muslims, has been silent on the matter.