A few months ago, right-wing Tennessee politician and paranoiac Robert Doggart made plans to attack and wipe out a Muslim community in upstate New York. Yet, despite overwhelming evidence as well as Doggart’s own admission, Judge Curtis Collier doesn’t consider him a “threat.”

Doggart was fixated on the small enclave of Islamberg, located just outside of Hancock. He shared his plans with collaborators and potential recruits outside the state over the telephone and through social media. His phone was tapped; federal agents have records of his conversations. One of his statements: “Those guys [have] 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.” According to a federal prosecutor, Doggart had a map of the community identifying specific targets, which included a mosque and a madrasa (the Muslim equivalent of a parochial school).

Doggart doesn’t deny it. He was set to plead guilty to charges of interstate communication of terrorist threats. This is a felony under federal law under the U.S. Code § 875. Paragraph B states:

Whoever, with intent to extort from any person, firm, association, or corporation, any money or other thing of value, transmits in interstate or foreign commerce any communication containing any threat to kidnap any person or any threat to injure the person of another, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both.

Under the terms of the plea deal, Doggart was to serve five years in prison.

Yet, despite the evidence, and Doggart’s admission as part of the plea deal, the Honorable Judge Curtis Collier still doesn’t quite believe it. Instead, he has ordered Doggart released, and has given the prosecution three weeks in order to come up with more proof. Attorneys have 21 days in which to file briefs “addressing whether the factual basis in the proposed plea deal agreement contains communication on defendant’s part amounting to a ‘true threat’” as defined under federal statute.

At least Doggart remains under house arrest and is required to wear a monitoring device around his ankle.  Still – what the hell is Judge Collier thinking? If Doggart’s name had been Arabic and his skin a few shades darker, and if he’d been planning an attack on a white Christian enclave, he’d have been on his way to Guantanamo Bay or Leavenworth in short order.

Islamberg was founded over twenty-five years ago by a Muslim group – mostly African-American – in order to get away from conditions in the big city. The community’s founder, Mubarak Ali Gilani, is a Sufi cleric. Gilani has had alleged ties to a Pakistani terrorist organization known as Jamaat ul-Fuqra (“Community of the Impoverished”).  However, he himself denies this. Furthermore, both federal and local law enforcement have investigated Gilani and find no connections with any jihadist activity.

Islamberg was depicted in a documentary, posted on YouTube, entitled Homegrown Jihad. The film purported to “expose secret Islamic terrorist camps in America.” Scenes, claimed to have been filmed inside Islamberg, depict women wearing military clothing undergoing what looks like combat training.  However, a local deputy sheriff says that according to his own investigations, “nothing that we have developed or had contact with has made us believe there is any credit to those videos.”

Apparently, Doggart believes that “documentary.” An ordained minister of the Christian National Church, Doggart is obviously a paranoid, racist, militant religious fanatic with delusional fantasies of leading a 21st Century version of the Crusades.

And for some reason, a federal judge can’t – or won’t – see what’s in front of his face.


K.J. McElrath is a former history and social studies teacher who has long maintained a keen interest in legal and social issues. In addition to writing for The Ring of Fire, he is the author of two published novels: Tamanous Cooley, a darkly comic environmental twist on Dante's Inferno, and The Missionary's Wife, a story of the conflict between human nature and fundamentalist religious dogma. When not engaged in journalistic or literary pursuits, K.J. works as an entertainer and film composer.