The greatest danger in the world today is not the threat from Islam, but the threat to Islam.

In the long war against terror, nations with primarily Muslim populations have suffered the most loses -- murder, instability, economic malaise and the degradation of religious faith. And it is all the fault of the terrorists who claim to be their champions.

On 9/11 and many times since, terrorists have tried attacking the West. But they’ve found the West isn’t an easy target. Britain foiled a major plot this past summer. The United States and its allies have struck back, adopting unprecedented security measures to stop further attacks.

In turn, the terrorists did what they have historically done: attacked the weak and avoided the strong. And the weak are in the terrorists’ own back yard.

Hezbollah’s adventurism offers only the latest example. Having finally emerged from decades of civil war and foreign occupation, the people of Lebanon enjoyed a brief false dawn of peace before terrorists sparked a war that killed hundreds of Muslim Arabs in Lebanon and Israel, displaced thousands more and dragged Lebanon to the brink of chaos.

The story in Iraq is much the same.

The Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism in Oklahoma City estimates that, to date, Iraq has suffered 5,771 terrorist attacks, totaling 14,680 deaths and thousands more in casualties. The country holds the current world record by a large margin. And it’s violence launched by Muslims, against Muslims.

Since 9/11, the institute has recorded 8,491 terrorist attacks in the Middle East and 16,269 fatalities -- numbers that by far exceed the losses in any other part of the planet.

In the last year alone, the government’s National Counterterrorism Center counted 8,223 victims of terrorism, including 2,627 deaths. South Asia, another region with large Islamic populations, runs second on the list with 5,401 total victims. In contrast, Western Europe suffered 339 victims and North America eight.

And it is not just the physical losses.

By virtually every index, many countries that are losing ground in the march to peace, prosperity and justice are Muslim. Terrorism is a key reason why. In The Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom, for example, Lebanon and Malaysia scored lower in 2005 than they did in 2004. Countries such as Afghanistan and Somalia were so chaotic they couldn’t even be scored.

According to the rankings of the non-partisan group Freedom House, in 2005 only one country out of 18 in the Middle East was graded as “free” (Israel). The region trails all others in the Freedom House rankings, and although modest gains were recorded last year (most notably in Lebanon), even that’s probably wiped out now.

Even Muslim charities are suffering from all the chaos, particularly in the United States. According to The Washington Post, charitable donations are way down. Religious organizations have been able to send only a paltry amount of aid for humanitarian relief in Lebanon. That’s because people know terrorists have used some Islamic charities as cash cows, so all charities are now suspect.

Terrorist propaganda argues that all the murder and mayhem is justified by religious sanction. That is simply a perversion of the Islamic faith. The use of “jihad” for what is essentially a political agenda is not part of Islamic tradition. In fact, when it has been used that way before, the results have usually been disastrous -- for Muslims.

The followers of al-Mahdi tried it in the Sudan in 1885; the result was 10 million dead Sudanese and a failed revolution. And the Muslim world learned a lesson. For almost a century, until the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, armed jihad was virtually unknown. Now it’s back.

After expelling the Soviets, the Taliban used the excuse of jihad to turn the country into a wasteland, and Osama bin Laden tried to unleash this brand of armed fascism on the world. Not surprisingly, where it has worked, its worse effects were on the followers of Islam -- the easy victims.

The real victors when the long war is won will be the Muslim world. Its people will be saved from the suffering terrorism causes, and their religion will be saved from a secular perversion that tries to turn an act of faith into a justification for naked aggression.

The great common cause in this war would be for all of us to battle those who would intentionally murder innocents for political gain.

Groups like al Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah and state sponsors of terrorism such as the governments in Syria and Iran are on the wrong side of history and religion, and they should be treated as the common enemy of all peoples.

James Jay Carafano, Ph.D., is Senior Research Fellow for National Security and Homeland Security at The Heritage Foundation (heritage.org), and author of the new book “G.I. Ingenuity.”

James Jay Carafano is vice president of foreign and defense policy studies  The Heritage Foundation. Follow him on Twitter @JJCarafano.