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Dearborn, Mich., Police Arrest Man in Apparent Mosque Bombing Attempt

By Mark Potok on January 31, 2011 - 8:53 am, Posted in Anti-Muslim, Extremist Crime

Editor’s note: Since this story was published, authorities have revised their suspicions that the suspect was carrying out an attack aimed at all Muslims. In fact, it turns out that Roger Stockham is an American convert to Sunni Islam, and reportedly was angry at the mosque in question because it was Shi’ite.

A 63-year-old Southern California man who reportedly has “a long history of antigovernment activities” was arrested in a car laden with explosives outside one of the nation’s largest mosques, the authorities said Sunday. More than 500 members of the Dearborn, Mich., mosque were attending a funeral service at the time.

Police said Roger Stockham was arrested last Monday, Jan. 24, in the parking lot of the Islamic Center of America, where he’d apparently driven from California in a vehicle filled with M-80s and other illegal explosives. He was arraigned last Wednesday on charges of making a terrorist threat and possessing explosives with unlawful intent. The charges carry possible prison sentences of 20 and 15 years.

The apparent anti-Islam terror plot comes after a year of apparently increasing hatred directed at Muslims in America. That was most obvious last August, when a national controversy erupted over a planned Islamic center in Manhattan, stoked by politicians like Newt Gingrich, who compared Muslims to Nazis. More recently, U.S. Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), the new chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, announced plans for February hearings into “radical Islam.” King has said there are “too many mosques” in the United States and this January claimed that “80% of the mosques in this country are controlled by radical imams.”

Ibrahim Cooper, a spokesman for the Center for American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), said in December that King had a long history of such remarks, “and that’s exactly what we don’t need at a time when anti-Muslim sentiment is growing.”

A local CAIR official told The Detroit News that he had learned from police that Stockham had been drinking in a Detroit bar earlier in the day of his arrest. He allegedly threatened to harm a mosque in Dearborn, and was followed outside the bar by an employee who gave police his license plate number. A search then began, although Dearborn Police Chief Ronald Haddad said a 911 call from a local resident tipped off police to Stockham’s presence. Haddad told The Associated Press that Stockham had a history of antigovernment activities but did not elaborate.

Dearborn is home to one of America’s largest Muslim communities, and the targeted mosque there is huge — 70,000 square feet with a 150-foot dome height and 10-story-tall minarets, according to The Detroit News.

Stockham, who reportedly left his home in Imperial Beach, California, some weeks ago, was described as an Army veteran who stayed to himself. The Detroit News found Internet postings where Stockham said he had joined the Army in 1965 and served in an assault helicopter company in Vietnam in 1968.

Stockham faces his first court hearing this Friday.

The level of anti-Muslim hate crimes in the United States appears to have fluctuated in response to both events and the reaction of national leaders. Such crimes were at very low levels until 2001, when they skyrocketed by some 1,700% immediately following the 9/11 attacks. But President Bush gave a number of important speeches in the aftermath of the attacks, saying that America’s enemies were not Muslims or Arabs, but only the Al Qaeda terror networks. Very likely as a result, anti-Muslim hate crimes plummeted the next year by almost 68%.

Anti-Muslim hate crimes

  • Mike

    “He allegedly threatened to harm a mosque in Dearborn, and was followed outside the bar by an employee who gave police his license plate number.”

    Thank you and God bless to that employee!

  • George A. Wojtowycz

    Just wait ’til you see the anti-Muslim rhetoric and violence we’ll be getting now!

  • Steven

    It wasn’t ignored here in Michigan; it was front-page news (for obvious reasons). I’m honestly not sure you can fully lay the blame for this on politicians, although they certainly stoked the fires. This guy was going to attack someone eventually; the anti-Muslim rhetoric just gave him an excuse for a target.

  • Carole

    What continues to amaze me, or perhaps not, given the mainstream media’s emphasis on acts of terrorism by people from the Middle East, is that this story, and the more recent one about “Jihad Jane,” have been virtually buried. Only cursory stories are found far inside of the papers I’ve read.

    Why, one wonders, are the stories of Americans planning and fomenting attacks on mosques or other sites not “in the headlines”?

  • Jonas Rand

    Peter King is correct about one thing. There are too many mosques in this country. Additionally, there are too many synagogues, Christer churches, Hindu temples, and Churches of Scientology, Inc. This country is too steeped in religion and it would probably be a more rational environment, with less hateful terrorist attacks to boot, if it were not taken as seriously. If they are not blatant racists, almost all of the hatemongers are motivated by religious grudges against Muslims, those wanting abortions, or heinous infidels (that was a Christian term first, folks). Also, Peter King would probably have no audience for his Islamophobic twaddle if our cultural paradigm was liberated from religious fundamentalist nonsense,

  • Difluoroethane

    What’s especially weird about this whole thing is that Stockham apparently converted to Islam himself (or claimed to have done so) sometime around 1979 according to the Merced Sun Star:;hl=en

    One possibility is that he converted back afterwards and became so disgruntled with his former faith that he decided to bomb a mosque.

    Another possibility is that he never actually converted in the first place and it was all a “stunt” or a joke.

    And then the third possibility is that he’s still a Muslim, and he targeted this specific Dearborn mosque because he thought it was either too radical or too moderate.

    Yet another possibility is that he has multiple personality disorder a la “Frankie and Alice” (he has one Muslim convert personality and one anti-Muslim bigot personality). Given his history of mental illness, this may well be the most likely of all.

    This guy’s personal history seems unbelievably messed up, from what I’ve read about him, that it seems almost impossible to jump to a conclusion at this point.

  • Paen

    I hope that all the anti-ground zero mosque people are very proud.