Toronto – American minister, Robert Doggart, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for his part in a plot to virtually destroy a New York State Muslim community.
The sentence handed down last Wednesday, follows an FBI investigation which culminated in a wiretapped confession. Doggart was arrested and charged with plotting the destruction of a mosque in the New York State community called Islamberg.
The plot involved the destruction of the community’s mosque via burning, school and cafeteria. Anyone attempting to intervene was to have been executed.
Doggart, who saw himself as a “warrior” for his Christian God, planned to have help in the attack, enlisting the services of members of a private militia and arsenal that included explosives, an M-4 assault rifle and a machete.
Not an Act of Terrorism
Doggart was never charged with plotting an act of terrorism. In his sentencing statement, the judge presiding over the case stated “You are not a monster… In many respects, you lived a life of honor.”
A would-be politician, Doggart ran for Congress in 2014, amassing 9,200 votes. Instead, the 63-year-old will spend the next 20 years “campaigning” behind bars.
The case, along with others in the recent past, brings to light the growing concern regarding the alleged “light” reporting by mainstream media of right-wing extremist violence and the idea that terror, by any other name, is still terror.
In May of this year, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) published a report in Newsweek, outlining the issue, which has been on a steady incline since the 2008 recession and Barack Obama’s inauguration as president.
Impunity or White Privilege
The report, titled “A Dark and Constant Rage: 25 Years of Right-Wing Terrorism in the United States,” stated that there has been an even flow of anti-Muslim violence being perpetrated by right-wing extremist groups living with near-impunity in the US. Authors of the report contend that this hate-induced violence is every bit as serious a threat to US security as the so-called “radical Islamist” terror, so often reported in mainstream media.
“The very real specter of radical Islamic terror in the United States has existed alongside an equally serious threat of terror from right-wing extremist groups and individuals,” the report reads, postulating that the reason it garners so little mass awareness is that the events often happen outside of major urban centres and the media coverage is, therefore, less sustained than events which happen in large centres.
And yet, said the report, “Both movements have generated shooting sprees, bombings, and a wide variety of plots and conspiracies. Both pose threats so significant that to ignore either would be to invite tragedy.”
The ADL defines terror as “a pre-planned act or attempted act of significant violence by one or more non-state actors in order to further an ideological, social or religious cause, or to harm perceived opponents of such causes.”
David Schanzer is a professor at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy and director of the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security. According to Shanzer, if terrorism is to be combatted successfully, then both sectors must be dealt with on equal terms. “If you don’t do both then you’re not going to really be able to do either,” he contends.
Explaining further, the professor said that if “the Muslim community feels like they’re being discriminated against and singled out because the Trump administration thinks they’re all potential terrorists and isn’t willing to deal with the…white people who are engaging in violent extremism as well, then they’re not going to cooperate with these programs, and therefore they’ll fail.”
The report also addressed the fact that the election of Donald Trump as US President has acted as a catalyst for right-wing extremist groups to feel emboldened to act on their ideology without fear of consequence.
For Mark Pitcavage, a senior research fellow at the ADL’s Center on Extremism and the report’s author, “So many extremists are energized.” They’re just “looking for some sort of spark.”
Pitcavage contended that “Both domestic Islamic extremism and right-wing extremism are serious, real threats in terms of producing violence and terrorism and to ignore either would be very harmful. It would be to invite catastrophe.”
He expressed the hope that, with the publication of this report, those people with the power to effect the necessary change required to eradicate terror in a permanent and thorough way, will begin to take the spectre of right-wing extremism more seriously.