Worried residents of Holy Islamville, a Muslim community outside York, are set to meet with federal, state and local law enforcement as early as Monday after a former congressional candidate from Tennessee pleaded guilty to threatening to blow up a similar Muslim community in Upstate New York.
More than 200 Muslims – mainly African-Americans born in the United States – have lived at Holy Islamville for more than three decades since The Muslims of America started the enclave as a place to live peacefully. Islamberg, a similar community started by Muslims of America, was the target of Robert R. Doggart, 63, of Tennessee, federal court documents show.
Islamville residents are meeting with police to let them know of suspicious activity they have seen, and to express general concerns for safety against attacks from those who plot to kill Muslims.
“We are worried that this is just the tip of the iceberg, and we want to make sure we are safe,” said Ali Rashid, an elder at Holy Islamville and one of its founders.
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Rashid has lived in York County for more than 30 years and has participated in dozens of interfaith outreach programs and meetings with the FBI and local police, to show that Islamville residents are peaceful and concerned about their community, just as other county residents are.
Islamville has dozens of homes, a school and a mosque. Doggart was planning on destroying a mosque, school and homes in Islamberg in New York.
Doggart, who unsuccessfully ran for Congress last year in Tennessee, pleaded guilty last month to communication of threats and is on house arrest awaiting sentencing. He admitted to posting Facebook messages saying that Islamberg must be destroyed, according to his plea agreement.
The longtime preacher and engineer also admitted to traveling to South Carolina in March. Doggart tried to meet with members of an unnamed “militia” in Greenville who were willing to assist him with bombs, guns and mayhem against Muslims, court documents show.
The South Carolina meeting never happened, but FBI wiretaps from agents in South Carolina showed Doggart solicited the help of other “gunners” from South Carolina and had been working the scheme targeting the government and Mulsims for months. Doggart spoke of being “cruel” in going after Muslims and gunning down anyone who resisted.
He also talked about taking “a small military installation,” documents show, and getting out of rural Islamberg, N.Y., without getting caught.
“This guy was planning an attack on a place just like Holy Islamville,” said Rashid, the Holy Islamville elder.
An unnamed South Carolina militia member told Doggart in phone calls taped by the FBI that an attack would, “make them think twice about, um, which town, which country, and who the hell they’re messing with,” documents show. Doggart was arrested in April before he could conduct surveillance on the New York community and carry out any attack.
The Muslims of America have 22 sites across the country, including Holy Islamville in York County. Many of the residents around the country know each other or are related.
Faiza Haqq, the wife of Holy Islamville Mayor Ramadan Sayeed Shakir, was raised in Islamberg in New York. Her parents, siblings and other family still live there.
“This hits really close to home,” Shakir said Saturday. “This person wanted to harm my family, my wife’s family. Many people here in York have ties to those in New York at Islamberg who could have been hurt or killed if this man had carried this out.”
Law enforcement knows from Doggart’s conviction in federal court that he has ties to anti-Muslim and anti-government sympathizers in South Carolina, Shakir said.
“With all that could have happened in New York, and the connection of this man to South Carolina,” he said, “we have every reason and right to want to make sure our families are safe.”
Several years ago, a wanted fugitive from New York was arrested near Islamville after absconding for years in a flight from a conviction, but the community’s residents have had a harmonious relationship with law enforcement in York County.
A Muslim teen from York – who pleaded guilty last month to weapons charges and plotted to join ISIS and a scheme to rob a weapons store and kill American soldiers – was not an Islamville resident and had no connection to the community. That 16-year-old was an American citizen, the son of Syrian-born parents who turned radical.
Islamville residents have had periodic trouble with neighbors who don’t like them.
In recent weeks, a group of people have thrown crosses onto the property at Islamville after holding a silent prayer-type demonstration outside the gates, Shakir said. There also have been passersby who have shouted racial and religious slurs, he said, but that has been going on for years.
Last year, a York man who lives nearby pleaded guilty to firing guns near Islamville and its residents. Rashid and others in the community say they have seen strange vehicles and indications that the group might be under surveillance, possibly the target of attack.
“We are Americans who love this country, just as the people of Islamberg do,” Rashid said. “We want to make sure that we are not targeted.”
Muslim groups on Saturday denounced Doggart’s plot, expressing dismay that Doggart was not charged with any terrorism-related crimes. Court documents filed this week also show authorities are concerned about his mental condition.
The Muslims of America have demanded protection for Holy Islamville, Islamberg and its other communities around the United States.
“Doggart is an example of the results of unchecked and rampant Islamophobia, which has spread lies for years about our peaceful community,” said Muhammad Matthew Gardner, a Muslims of America spokesman. “This man plotted to mercilessly kill us, kill our children, and blow up our mosque and our school.
“We have sound reason to believe he has already visited our other locations around the U.S. What other murderous plans do he and his private militia have, and where are his accomplices?”
Andrew Dys • 803-329-4065 • firstname.lastname@example.org