Robert Doggart, 65, was arrested for allegedly plotting to burn down a mosque, school and cafeteria in the Muslim-majority community of Islamberg in New York in April 2015.
He was charged with intentionally defacing, damaging or destroying any religious property or attempting to do so; violating civil rights; and making threats through interstate communications, but —surpise! surprise!— he was not accused of trying to commit an act of terrorism.
He has been on house arrest ever since he was apprehended.
Now, his case has been reopened again but Chattanooga prosecutors won’t use the word “terrorist” to describe him. And that’s because the federal law protects him. That’s right.
According to Rafia Zakaria, a human rights attorney, the text in the federal statutes on terrorism is designed to criminalize suspects from foreign countries and almost always targets individuals with foreign ties — but the interpretation of these so-called “foreign ties” is so loose that almost any Muslim in the United States can be charged with terrorism, even those who have committed a much more benign act than Doggart is accused of.
Doggart certainly meets the criteria of an alleged domestic terrorist, according to attorneys Amatul-Wadud and Tahirah Clark who are representing Islamberg in a civil lawsuit against the man. But the federal prosecutors are using non-terrorism related charges against Doggart because of the nonexistence of federal statute on domestic terrorism.
“In this way, domestic terror is rendered invisible, and the imagined threat of foreign terror magnified, its incipient paranoia implicating all American Muslims within its folds of suspicion, surveillance and discrimination,” Zakaria wrote in a report for the Columbia Journalism Review. “All forms of terror should be equally punishable, especially in a legal system that justifies pre-emptive policing and already monitors social media platforms and speech for potential extremists.”
But the loose language of the terrorism statue has allowed several Muslims to be prosecuted on terrorism charges.
Case in point: Ahmed Rahami was arrested for an explosion in New York City's Chelsea section in September 2016 and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo wasted no time in claiming he had a “foreign connection” without any evidence.
On the other hand, Doggart rallied people using social media to fulfill his agenda and also revealed his plans to use AK-47 rifles to shoot down Muslims in what he called the “extremist camps” in Hancock.
Since the fateful Sept. 11, 2001, neo-Nazis have killed nearly twice as many people in the United States as Muslims, but because most of them are pure-bred Americans, it seems, the derogatory term of “terrorist” does not apply to them. Now we know why: It’s because the discriminatory law protects them.
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