Elham Asaad Buaras
Muslim groups in America have expressed outrage about a plea deal, which saw a would-be right wing terrorist who planned to attack a Muslim enclave being released on $30,000 bail and not being prosecuted under anti-terror laws.
Community leaders have pointed to a double standard, not only in the legal consequences faced by Robert Doggart, 63, a former right-wing Congressional candidate from North Carolina, but also in what they say is scant media coverage of his plot to “utterly destroy” the town of Islamberg.
Prosecutors applied a plea deal which resulted in Doggart, Chrisitian minister, facing just 5 years in prison to a single count of interstate communication of threats, this despite the presence of strong evidence including intercepted phone calls and social media posts which revealed that Doggart had planned to attack Islamberg on April 15 with members of a private militia.
According to an FBI investigation that began early this year, Doggart was planning to bomb 200-strong enclave, which included attacks on a mosque, school and other buildings in the town and to use an assault rifle, pistol and even a machete to kill anyone who resisted him.
Doggart is an ordained Christian minister in the Christian National Church. In 2014, he unsuccessfully ran for Congress as an independent, espousing far right-wing views.
He preached “the protection of the American people, land, and our form of government by the professional military establishment.”
Doggart served in the US Naval Sea Cadet Corps, worked for 40 years in the electrical generation business, has a Master’s degree and a PhD from La Salle University, and claimed he had nine “committed” men working with him to carry out this attack.
“Those guys should to be killed. Their buildings need to be burnt down. If we can get in there and do that not losing a man, even the better,” Doggart told an accomplice, according to a transcript of his wiretapped phone calls.
Doggart had allegedly begun stockpiling weapons and ammunition and reaching out to people across the country who shared his extremist views.
Islamberg is a small community of Muslims founded in the 1980s in Upstate New York about 40 miles east of Binghamton. It has long been the source of conspiracy theories and rumors about terrorist conspiracies – though local law enforcement says there is no evidence to these.
The group issued a photo of children from the community’s school with a sign that read: “Why do you want to kill us Robert Doggart? ”
Spokesman Muhammad Matthew Gardner said: “Doggart is an example of the results of unchecked and rampant Islamophobia which has spread lies for years about our peaceful community. This man plotted to mercilessly kill us, kill our children, and blow up our mosque and our school.”
“What other murderous plans do he and his private militia (also known as American Taliban) have and where are his accomplices? All would agree, if a Muslim did this, the perpetrator would be immediately identified as a terrorist then prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Therefore, we call on all branches of justice to see to it that this man is prosecuted for planning a heinous hate crime and terrorist act.”
The plea agreement is an example of a legal double standard, according to Amatul-Wadud, who has called for a meeting with Department of Justice officials. “Anybody who purports to be Muslim and acts inconsistently with the laws would certainly be charged with terrorism,” she said. “There should be no discrepancy in how the law is applied to Muslims versus someone who is not Muslim.”
This call has been echoed by other Muslim groups, including the Council on American-Islamic Relations. “If a Muslim had planned to carry out such a religiously motivated deadly attack, he would certainly have been labeled a terrorist and charged accordingly,” said CAIR’s National Communications Director, Ibrahim Hooper, in a statement to The Muslim News. “We ask the Obama administration to rescind the plea agreement, which – as it stands – could see this individual free in the community.”