The Muslim Village of Islamberg located in Hancock, NY.

This article was originally published on the editorial page of thedailystar.com, of Oneonta, New York, April 12, 2016.

We stand with Islamberg.

This is the message we would like American Bikers United Against Jihad to hear on May 15, if they bring their message of hate to the local area during what they are calling a “Ride for National Security.”

We do not stand with these people.

We stand with Islamberg.

This is far from the first time that the Muslim community near Hancock, in Delaware County, has been singled out.

In May, a former Tennessee congressional candidate pleaded guilty to charges related to threats against the hamlet of Islamberg.

Robert Rankin Doggart, 63, of Signal Mountain allegedly threatened to attack Islamberg with an M4 rifle, and was attempting to recruit others to his cause.

Doggart was charged with solicitation to commit a civil rights violation, and is being held at a secure medical facility in Kentucky. A lawsuit by Islamberg is pending against Doggart and four others in connection with the threats.

Advocates for the Muslim community argued that Doggart was treated too leniently after an FBI wiretap recording allegedly revealed Doggart’s plans to burn down buildings and “cut (people) to shreds” with a machete.”

A spokesman for Muslims of America Inc., which operates Islamberg, branded Doggart an example of the “unchecked and rampant Islamophobia which has spread lies for years about our peaceful community.”

He also lashed out at the federal court system for allowing Doggart to be released on bail, despite the gravity of the charge, contending: “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.”

We stand with Islamberg.

Now the American Bikers United Against Jihad are trotting out the same tired claims that the small community of Muslims is engaged in paramilitary training with the goal of committing crimes against Americans.

It is hard to reconcile the claims made in arch-conservative videos and articles found online — claiming that the hamlet houses underground bunkers, extensive military training grounds and other militaristic features — with the statements of the organization’s leadership, which state goals of peace and youth outreach.

But we do not have to make that judgment for ourselves. Local law enforcement officials and a representative of the FBI have affirmed that there is no evidence of terrorist activity at Islamberg.

We stand with Islamberg.

And it is our hope that anyone else who stands with Islamberg will be waiting for the American Bikers United Against Jihad when their “Ride for National Security” pulls up to the gates of the hamlet.

It is our hope that this protest against what can only be described as a peaceful enclave is greeted with a counter-protest demonstrating that the people of our area, particularly those in Hancock and Deposit, stand with Islamberg.

There is still some good that could come from this whole thing. If the riders who might travel to Delaware County in May have the opportunity to see for themselves that Islamberg is not the bogeyman depicted by the far-right-wing media, perhaps they will leave with a more enlightened view of the whole thing.

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