The Hatewatch blog is managed by the staff of the Intelligence Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based civil rights organization.

Former Congressional Candidate Pleads in Plot to Murder Muslims

Posted in Anti-Muslim, Domestic Terrorism by Don Terry on May 18, 2015 - 1:24 pm

A group of Muslim school children in upstate New York has a heartbreaking question for a Tennessee man they have never met, but who haunts their dreams.

In big letters on a large banner, they ask, “Why Do You Want To Kill Us Robert Doggart?”

Doggart, an allegedly ordained Christian minister who came in third last year in a Tennessee congressional race, is awaiting sentencing in federal court after recently pleading guilty in a plot to destroy with fire and guns the small Muslim community where the children live, worship and attend school.

Courtesy The Muslims of America Inc.

Courtesy The Muslims of America Inc.

When the 63-year-old wannabe Tennessee terrorist was arrested by FBI agents in his home state this spring, he was trying to recruit via cellphone and Facebook a militia of “patriots” to attack the enclave of mostly African-American Muslims near Hancock, N.Y., known as “Islamberg.”

He planned to burn to the ground the mosque, school and cafeteria, according to a federal complaint. Anyone who fought back would be gunned down by Doggart and other snipers using M4 rifles or, as Doggart allegedly told a confidential informant, “we will cut them to shreds” with machetes.

For years, Islamberg has been dogged by radical-right conspiracy theories and claims, alleging that it is one of a string of secret jihadist training camps in the backwoods of America. There is at least one YouTube video making such a claim. According to one totally baseless rumor, Osama bin Laden went into hiding in Islamberg after the 9/11 attacks.

A local deputy sheriff in Delaware County told a radio show in January that he was “perplexed” about the Islamberg rumors, adding that he and other deputies had been on the property on a number of occasions and that “nothing that we have developed or had contact with has made us believe there is any credit to those videos.”

Doggart, according to the plea agreement, “justified his attack on Islamberg by claiming that the residents of Islamberg were planning a terrorist attack.” ( continue to full post… )

Sean Hannity Holds Absurd Debate Between Bigots Pam Geller and Anjem Choudary

Posted in Anti-Muslim, Media Extremism by Hatewatch Staff on May 7, 2015 - 11:22 am

choudaryfbLast night, Fox’s Sean Hannity, in a clear ploy to boost his ratings, invited Islamophobe Pamela Geller on his show to debate the UK-based Muslim extremist, Anjem Choudary.

The ten-minute “debate” descended into little more than a shouting match between Hannity and Choudary – a man who has praised the 9/11 attackers and claims he would renounce his British citizenship to live under ISIS rule. Over the past decade, Choudary’s Al-Muhajiroun network (also known under different names) is responsible for radicalizing countless Muslims in the UK. A 2013 report by the anti-racist organization HOPE not hate, identified over seventy people linked with Choudary’s network who have been convicted of terrorism charges or who have participated in suicide attacks. The report also found that “al-Muhajiroun-connected groups across Europe have sent between 200-300 people to Syria, making it the largest single recruiting network in Europe.”

Choudary told Hannity that he believes Muslims who leave their faith should be subject to capital punishment, and restated his belief that gays and lesbians who “do the act publicly” in front of witnesses should also be subjected to the death penalty.

Geller, the founder of a number of organizations listed by the SPLC as hate groups, used the debate to continue playing the victim – blaming “jihadis” for making the attack at Geller’s Mohammed cartoon contest in Garland, Texas, a “flashpoint.” Geller also claimed she has had to increase her security because President Obama “created an environment that raised the stakes on this” – before citing a previous anti-Muslim event she hosted in 2012 that took place without incident. On a previous appearance on Fox earlier this week, Geller absurdly compared herself to civil rights activist Rosa Parks.

Hannity’s debate not only gave a platform to two extremists, but it also, more disturbingly, succeeded in making Pamela Geller sound rational when compared to Choudary’s rants. The mainstreaming of hate is a very dangerous thing that has very real consequences and Hannity and Fox News should be taken to task for this move. No matter how either figure fared on prime time last night, the fact remains that both Geller and Choudary represent two sides of the same racist coin and giving these figures a platform to express their bigoted views tarnishes efforts to build a more inclusive democracy.

Home Searched in Aftermath of Shooting at Anti-Muslim Event

Posted in Anti-Muslim, Extremist Crime by Don Terry on May 4, 2015 - 9:01 am

An Arizona man once charged with trying to travel overseas to wage violent jihad and his roommate have been identified as the gunmen killed Sunday evening in Texas after they opened fire outside a contest that was being held to crown the best cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad.

The event, which was attended by about 200 people in the Dallas suburb of Garland, was sponsored by Pamela Geller, the anti-Muslim movement’s most visible and flamboyant figurehead. When the gunfire erupted shortly before 7 p.m., security guards whisked Geller to safety in the inner reaches of the building.

Extra security, including several off-duty Garland police officers, had been hired for what the organizers must have known was a potentially incendiary event, the Muhammad Art Exhibit and Contest. Under most interpretations of Islamic law, it is expressly forbidden to depict the prophet visually, and Muslims have historically reacted with violence when newspapers and magazines have done so.

In January, two French Muslim brothers killed 12 people during an attack in Paris at the offices of the satirical weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo, which had occasionally published cartoons depicting the prophet.

Before they were killed, the gunmen in Texas, who did not make it past the parking lot of the Curtis Culwell Center, shot and wounded a security guard. The guard was treated and released. No one else was injured in the short-lived attack.

One of the fallen suspects, according to ABC’s “Good Morning America” (GMA), was identified as Elton Simpson, 30, who had previously been the subject of an FBI terror investigation. GMA quoted a senior FBI official saying investigators believed Simpson, of North Phoenix, is the person who sent out several Twitter messages prior to the failed Sunday attack.

ht_elton_simpson_garland_texas_bug_jc_150504_16x9_992

Elton Simpson, suspect in the Garland Shooting

The last message, sent about half an hour before the shooting, the official said, used the hashtag #TexasAttack.

The Guardian described one tweet as saying that “the user and his ‘bro’ had pledged allegiance to Amirul Mu’mineen, Arabic for ‘commander of the faithful,’ and possibly a reference to Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.”

The New York Times reports that in 2010 federal prosecutors charged Simpson with plotting to travel to Somalia “for the purpose of engaging in violent jihad” and then lying about his plans to federal agents. The Times said a judge found Simpson guilty of lying but ruled the government did not prove the rest of its case. Simpson was sentenced to three years’ probation.

Simpson’s 34-year-old roommate, Nadir Soofi, was identified as the second gunmen as FBI agents combed the Phoenix area apartment complex where it is believed the men lived, according to The Washington Post.

Appearing on CNN this morning, Geller said the attack “will wake up the American people” to the realization that the “war is here.”

Geller, the president of the American Freedom Defense Initiative, listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an anti-Muslim group, also told CNN that her organization had to spend upwards of $50,000 for added security for the contest that offered a top prize of $10,000.

Weeks earlier, in justifying putting on the controversial cartoon competition, Geller said: “After the Charlie Hebdo massacre – and after the violent Muhammad cartoon riots a few years ago – there should have been cartoon exhibits all over the free world, to show jihadists and their stealth groups … that we will not kowtow to violent intimidation.”

Dutch politician Geert Wilders, best known for his criticism of Islam, delivered the keynote address. A cartoonist who calls himself “a recovered Muslim” won the $10,000 prize.

The event was almost over when the gunmen drove up to near the entrance of the parking lot, jumped out of their car and shot the security guard in the ankle.

That’s as far as they got. They were shot and killed by a police officer in a brief exchange of gunfire. Their bodies lay where they fell next to their car throughout the night and into Monday morning as police, using a robot, slowly examined the vehicle for booby-traps and bombs. None were found.

Geller has been a verbal bomber thrower for years, relentlessly shrill and coarse in her broad-brush denunciations of Islam. She also makes preposterous claims, such as the assertion that President Obama is the “love child” of Malcolm X.

Geller uses her website to publish insults of Muslims. She posted (and later removed) a video implying that Muslims practice bestiality with goats and a cartoon depicting the Muslim prophet Muhammad with a pigs’ face (observant Muslims do not eat pork).

After the shooting at Geller’s event in Garland Sunday night, Alia Salem, head of the Dallas chapter of the Council on Islamic Relations, told The Daily Beast that she had for weeks “passionately urged” Muslims to ignore Geller and her provocative contest.

On her Facebook page on April 25, Salem said Geller’s goal was “to incite our community and rile us up and I do not want to give her the satisfaction or media attention she thrives on. Without our reaction she has no story at all and no draw for the media which is what keeps her going and allows her to get publicity.”

Salem asked, “Let’s not fall for it. Please.”

At least two men did not heed her plea.

Post updated at 4:07 pm CST, May 4, 2015. 

Pamela Geller Announces Contest for the Best Cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad

Posted in Anti-Muslim by Hatewatch Staff on April 10, 2015 - 11:36 am
Pam Geller addressing rally in Garland, Texas

Pam Geller addressing rally in Garland, Texas, last year.

The anti-Muslim movement is full of publicity hounds and self-described experts on Islam, many of whom try to conceal their bigotry behind a veneer of measured thought.

And then there is Pamela Geller, the Manhattan socialite turned indignant expert on the subject of Islam and jihad. From sponsoring billboards on the side of New York City buses that bordered on called Muslims savages, to her catastrophic warnings regarding the proposed building of a mosque near the site of the World Trade Center towers, Geller has historically been in a league of her own.

And now she’s just outdone herself. 

Geller, who runs the website Atlas Shruggs, plans to hold a contest for the best cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad. The purpose of the contest is to “defend free speech and not give in to violent [Muslim] intimidation,” Geller said in an article posted on Breitbart. According to Jihad Watch, which is run by Geller’s fellow Islamophobe Robert Spencer, the contest has received over 350 submissions. 

Under Islamic law, it is expressly forbidden to depict the prophet visually, and Muslims have historically reacted with violence when newspapers or magazines have done so. 

Justifying her event, Geller said, “After the Charlie Hebdo massacre — and after the violent Muhammad cartoon riots a few years ago — there should have been cartoon exhibits all over the free world, to show jihadists and their stealth groups … that we will not kowtow to violent intimidation.”

The “winning” submission will be revealed on May 3  and the artist will win $10,000. Geller will also give a$2,500  “People’s Choice Award” during an event at the Curtis Culwell Center in Garland, Texas, where Dutch politician Geert Wilders, best know for his criticism of Islam, will deliver the keynote address.

Self-Described ‘Patriot’ in Georgia Charged With Planting Backpack Bomb

Posted in Anti-Muslim, Anti-Semitic, Extremist Crime by Bill Morlin on March 24, 2015 - 2:45 pm

A 67-year-old self-described “Patriot” has been charged with building two improvised explosive devices found last November near Atlanta in a backpack stuffed with material suggesting the bomb-builder was a Muslim.

Michael Conrade Sibley, of Marietta, Ga., was being held on a $100,000 bond after he was arraigned yesterday in U.S. District Court in Atlanta on one charge of possessing explosives on federal property.

Sources: WSB-TV

Sources: WSB-TV

Sibley confessed to FBI agents during an interview on Friday, four days after he was initially interviewed about his involvement with planting a bomb-packed backpack in Vickery Creek Park in Roswell on Nov. 4, court documents said.

It is unclear what initially led authorities to question Sibley over the explosives, which were discovered by a mother and her daughter who were hiking in the park, located on federal property, north of Atlanta. A bomb-squad destroyed the backpack in place.

Evidence subsequently recovered by investigators likely included the suspect’s DNA. Also recovered were components of two potentially deadly pipe bombs, a Koran and a list of potential terrorist targets, including hospitals, schools and Jewish facilities in the Greater Atlanta area.

The Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta was among those listed and put on a heightened state of security after the backpack was discovered.

Various media outlets have reported that the backpack bomber’s intention apparently was to frighten the public and spread fear of Islamic terrorism.

The charging documents say Sibley bought the backpack at a garage sale, and constructed the explosive devices in the garage of his home in Marietta. He admitted placing a Quran and the book The Rape of Kuwait in the backpack, along a copy of the Atlanta Falcons football schedule. He also “wrote the name, ‘Mina Khodari,’ in the backpack because it looked foreign,” the court documents say.

Sibley told FBI agents “he is a ‘patriot’ and he felt no one was paying attention to what was going on the world,” federal documents say. He also expressed the belief that if he planted the backpack bomb in a Roswell Park, “people would finally get that this type of activity could happen anywhere.”

Washington State County Prosecutor Under Fire For Wife’s Anti-Muslim Comments

Posted in Anti-Muslim by Bill Morlin on March 10, 2015 - 3:56 pm
Larry and Leslie Haskell.

Larry and Leslie Haskell.

A newly elected prosecutor in Washington State is under fire for a string of anti-Muslim, racist and other insensitive comments his wife made on social media and news comment sites.

Spokane County Prosecuting Attorney Larry Haskell told various media outlets he doesn’t share the views of his wife, Lesley Haskell, after her online opinions were exposed late last month in the Inlander, a weekly newspaper. But since then, local civil rights activists say the prosecutor should have gone farther and denounced his wife’s comments.

The prosecutor, a Republican, and his wife did not respond to an email request from Hatewatch for comment.

The Inlander article said Lesley Haskell made a Facebook comment in January about a Muslim mayor in the Netherlands who, after the terrorist attack at the Charlie Hebdo offices, said Muslims who “do not like freedom can pack your bags and leave.”

“I don’t care what he said, I do not trust muzlims [sic] no matter what,” she posted in response, the newspaper reported.

In another post, she wrote: “Islam is not a religion, it’s a cult. Cults have no protections under our Constitution. (Muslims) should leave and live in a country that supports their archaic beliefs.”

Media coverage of her comments caught the attention of Assistant U.S. Attorney Aine Ahmed, who threw a political fundraising event last year supporting Larry Haskell in challenging Breann Beggs for the vacant Spokane County prosecutor’s office.

“I think those comments are dangerous … dangerous because people who are uneducated and don’t know Muslims take it for face value, then people think it’s acceptable,” Ahmed, himself a Muslim, told KHQ-TV.

Beggs, who has been involved in several social justice cases, expressed dismay about the prosecutor’s lackluster response.

“It is not enough to refrain from hate speech,” Beggs told Hatewatch. “Our elected leaders must speak out against ignorance and bigotry.’’

But Liz Moore, executive director of the Peace and Justice Action League of Spokane, questioned whether Lesley Haskell’s public comments about Muslims and other minorities mirror her husband’s views, the Inlander reported.

“I think everyone in our community needs to feel confident that they are treated fairly by everyone in public office, and in the criminal justice system in particular,” Moore told the newspaper. “If I were a member of the Islamic faith, this would make me have questions about how I would be treated or perceived.”

Haskell has since apologized for the “angst” caused by his wife’s comments, and said he doesn’t share her views about Muslim. But Lesley Haskell’s online comments weren’t limited to Muslims.

After a young black man recently pleaded guilty in the beating death of a World War II veteran, in another case prosecuted by her husband, Lesley Haskell posted a comment calling the defendant and his family “pieces of vile garbage” who “are evil, scum, wastes on society (who) should be annihilated,” the Spokesman-Review reported.

When former South African President Nelson Mandela died in December 2013, Lesley Haskell posted that she didn’t “understand the reverence for this man” and wasn’t about to mourn his passing. “He might have done some charitable things, but he was a communist,” she wrote. “When did we, in the U.S., start idolizing communists? Oh yeah, in 2008” — an apparent reference to the election of President Obama.

As the controversy surrounding her online commentary continues to swirl, a new report today in The Spokesman-Review disclosed that Lesley Haskell also commented on criminal cases still under investigation or are being prosecuted by her husband.

Larry Haskell told the newspaper it would be his preference that his wife avoid public comments on cases in the prosecutor’s office, but has no legal ability to control comments made by her or other private citizens.

Extremist Highlights from CPAC 2015

Posted in Academic Racism, Anti-Immigrant, Anti-Latino, Anti-Muslim by Hatewatch Staff on March 5, 2015 - 2:16 pm

The Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), which took place this past weekend in Maryland, is almost always stacked with white nationalists and extremists. And this year was no different, even though American Conservative Union has sought to shun far-right groups and individuals from its event.

From anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant extremists, to the anti-LGBT activists who paraded halls, a good number of groups and individuals still managed to share the spotlight.

Here are some highlights from CPAC 2015:

• As Little Green Footballs reported, the organizers at CPAC gave press credentials and free access to the Tennessee white supremacist radio show Political Cesspool, a radio program that has been nexus of hate in America. Its sponsors include the Council of Conservative Citizens (CofCC) and the Holocaust-denying Institute for Historical Review.

Faraj

Nigel Farage.

Nigel Farage, head of the anti-immigrant and right-wing populist United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) stated, “We have all in the West mistakenly and I think in a very cowardly manner, we have pursed a policy of multiculturalism. We have pursued a policy of actually encouraging division within our societies rather than pursuing a policy where we should all come together.” Farage went on to say, “We must stand firm and defend our Judeo-Christian culture. We must make it clear that we believe in common law and not Sharia law.”

ProEnglish, an anti-immigrant group headed by white nationalist Robert Vandervoort, had an exhibitor’s booth. Vandervoort is the former head of the white nationalist group Chicagoland Friends of American Renaissance. The group was affiliated with the New Century Foundation and its publication American Renaissance, published by white nationalist ideologue Jared Taylor.

• A number of anti-immigrant activists attended an impromptu press conference held by Sen. Jeff Sessions, organized by Breitbart Media. Sessions used the press conference to attack President Obama’s executive action on immigration. Rosemary Jenks, Chris Chmielenski and Jim Edwards of the anti-immigrant group NumbersUSA and Bob Dane with the anti-immigrant hate group Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) all attended the press conference.

• Frank Gaffney, one of the leading anti-Muslim voices in the country, also attended the Sessions press conference. Gaffney’s group, the Center for Security Policy (CSP) had a booth in the exhibitor’s hall of CAPC. CSP was also a sponsor of the conference. Clare Lopez, CSP’s vice president for research and analysis, also spoke on two panels.

• Sen. Ted Cruz called for IRS to be abolished and said if he was elected President he would instruct every IRS employee to be stationed on the U.S./Mexico border – remark which received a standing ovation.

• The devil is in the details, or in the case of CPAC, the fliers people hand out. One young person passed out a flier for the racist website VDARE.com founded by white nationalist Peter Brimelow that advertised his new book Alien Nation and talked about how “the national disaster of mass Third World immigration” would “spell the eventual doom of the American nation.” Another flier passed out to CPAC attendees warned “We cannot continue to help the world if we are brought to our economic knees by a flood of illegal aliens.” The bottom of the flier read, “Paid for by Chris Phillips. Not coordinated with any candidate or candidate’s committee.”

• Zuhdi Jasser, one of the few Muslim spokespersons within the anti-Muslim movement, called for America to stand up and defeat ISIS during a panel, claiming that the Muslim world is incapable of dealing with the threat. “Within Islam right now is a laboratory that only breeds cockroaches,” he said.

• White nationalists representing a number of groups participated in a protest outside of the CPAC hotel on Saturday afternoon voicing support for Russian leader Vladimir Putin. Matt Heimbach of the Traditionalist Youth Network organized the protest, which also included members of the Neo-Confederate group League of the South.

• The Convention of States, a project of the group Citizens for Self Government calling for a convention to propose amendments resulting the a reduction of federal powers, also had an exhibitor’s booth at CPAC. Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma recently signed on as a senior advisor for the project. Mathew Staver of the anti-LGBT Liberty Counsel is on the Convention of States legal board of reference.

• One U.S. governor, Scott Walker of Wisconsin, compared his state’s union protesters to ISIS, stating, “I can take on 100,000 protesters, I can do the same across the world.” Another, Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, used his speech to attack President Obama, claiming the Obama isn’t fit to run the United States as Commander in Chief.

Accused Houston Arsonist May Have Had Anti-Muslim Motive

Posted in Anti-Muslim, Extremist Crime by Don Terry on February 18, 2015 - 4:45 pm

He hated Muslims.

They got what they deserved.

Things happen for a reason.

Those were the chilling words and sentiments the homeless man charged in the arson fire of a Houston mosque allegedly told a convenience store clerk shortly after part of the house of worship went up in flames Friday morning around 5:30.

The office of the Harris County District Attorney revealed the alleged statement yesterday evening when the suspect, 55-year-old Darryl Ferguson, made his first court appearance in the case, according to KPRC 2.

“He told a nearby convenience store clerk,” a court official said yesterday during Ferguson’s probable cause hearing, “that he hated Muslims, they got what they deserved, and things happen for a reason.”

Despite Ferguson’s alleged statements, the arson that heavily damaged a portion of the Quba Islamic Institute mosque and school in a residential neighborhood of Houston has not been classified as a hate crime. “It’s still under investigation,” Jeff McShan, a spokesman for the Harris County District Attorney, told Hatewatch today. “Who knows if that guy [the store clerk] is telling the truth?”

Ferguson, who has a lengthy criminal record, was arrested Monday evening after he approached arson investigators who were canvassing the neighborhood near the mosque. The authorities said Ferguson had been staying in the area and confessed to setting the fire, claiming it was accidental and he was simply trying to stay warm.

He has been charged with first-degree arson and faces from five to 99 years in prison if convicted. He is being held without bond.

McShan, the district attorney spokesman, said even if it turns out that Ferguson actually said those chilling words of hate to the store clerk he would not be charged with a hate crime because he has already been charged with the highest level of offense. In Texas, McShan said, a hate crime offense adds one degree to a charge “and he’s already at first degree and he wouldn’t be moved up.”

McShan said Ferguson’s alleged words, however, could be used against him at trial to establish guilt.

No one was injured in the blaze that took about two dozen firefighters roughly an hour to knock down. One of the three buildings – primarily used for storage – that comprise the mosque and school complex was gutted.

A telephone call to the mosque for comment today about Ferguson’s alleged statement was not returned.

Homeless Man Charged in Houston Islamic Center Arson, But Motive Remains Unknown

Posted in Anti-Muslim, Extremist Crime by Bill Morlin on February 17, 2015 - 12:48 pm

A homeless man has been charged with arson in connection with a fire last week that heavily damaged a portion of the Quba Islamic Institute mosque and school in a residential neighborhood of Houston.

Suspect Darryl Ferguson, 55, was arrested Monday evening after he approached arson investigators who were canvassing the neighborhood near the mosque, the Houston Chronicle reported. Investigators said Ferguson, who has a lengthy criminal record and had been staying in the area, confessed to setting the fire, claiming it was accidental.

Authorities have not said if they intend to classify the arson as a hate crime.

In a Facebook posting and media interviews, mosque officials say they were told by investigators that the fire at 5:30 a.m. Friday was deliberately started by someone using accelerants.

Two dozen firefighters from the Houston Fire Department had the fire knocked down within an hour but the blaze gutted one of three buildings ­­— primarily used for storage — that comprise the mosque and school complex.

No one was injured. A damage estimate hasn’t been released.

It is the latest in a string of at least four suspicious fires or arson attempts at Houston-area mosques in the past decade.

The arson fire in Houston occurred just three days after the murder of three Muslim university students in Chapel Hill, Va. The FBI is now conducting an initial inquiry to determine if those killings constitute a hate crime, warranting a federal investigation.

“A lot of people have the feeling that perhaps the mentality is the same,” Ahsan Zahid, son of the Houston institute’s imam, told the Los Angeles Times after the fire at the mosque.

In an interview with the Houston Chronicle, Zahid noted the preliminary finding of arson and added, “I hope it’s not a hate crime.”

Houston — the fourth largest city in the United States — has the largest population of Muslims in Texas, an estimated 57,000 people. The state of Texas, meanwhile, has the nation’s eighth largest Muslim population, 420,000 people, who are served by 166 mosques.

Some of them, it appears, have been targets of hate crimes.

In March 2011, a fire at the Clear Lake mosque in southeastern Houston damaged a library, kitchen and women’s prayer room. Two months later, three masked men captured on security cameras poured gasoline on prayer rugs at the Madrasah Islamiah mosque, but a large fire failed to ignite.

In May 2004, a late-night arson fire damaged the Msjiad Almuhaymin mosque in Houston while the facility was locked and vacant.

There have been no arrests in any of those arsons, according to media reports.

But last May, at the end of a lengthy sting investigation, the FBI arrested a man from a Houston suburb who allegedly plotted to kill police officers and blow up government buildings and mosques.

Robert James Talbot Jr., 38, of Katy, Texas, who used the online alias of “Robert Liberty,” pleaded guilty in October to attempted interference with commerce by robbery and solicitation to commit a crime of violence.

Most court documents in his case are sealed from public viewing, but the docket report shows Talbot is scheduled for sentencing on April 10.

FBI Probing Murder of 3 Muslim Students Amid Hate Crime Questions and Widespread Fear

Posted in Anti-Muslim, Hate Crime by Bill Morlin on February 13, 2015 - 3:58 pm

The FBI has opened an “initial inquiry” – a procedural step before a full investigation – into this week’s fatal shootings of three young Muslims at a housing complex in Chapel Hill, N.C., near the University of North Carolina.

“The FBI has also opened a parallel preliminary inquiry to determine whether or not any federal laws were violated related to the case,” the FBI said in a statement, the Washington Post reports in today’s editions.

Chapel Hill police currently are the lead agency in investigating the shooting deaths on Tuesday of newlyweds Deah Barakat, 23, and Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21, and her sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19, all students at the University of North Carolina.

Before a formal investigation is begun by the FBI, the agency frequently opens what it calls an “initial inquiry” to determine if there is sufficient evidence to justify full-blown federal intervention. With the FBI involved, federal charges can be filed against suspects in an investigation, supplanting or supporting state charges.

A neighbor of the victims, Craig Stephen Hicks, 46, surrendered to police after the shootings. He has been charged with three counts of murder and remains in jail. Chapel Hill police have said “an ongoing neighbor dispute over parking” may have been a factor in the shootings.

But Mohammad Abu-Salha, the father of the sisters who were killed, has publicly said the murders were a hate crime and called upon the FBI to investigate. “This has hate crime written all over it,” the father told reporters at the funeral of his daughters. Others, including fellow Muslims, have echoed that sentiment.

The Washington Post reported that the shooting “has stirred a deep sense of fear and vulnerability” for Muslims living in and near Chapel Hill. “As thousands gathered Thursday to mourn the victims, more and more people there were discussing whether bias played a role in the shootings and the larger issue of anti-Islamic sentiment,” the newspaper reported.

Hicks’ Facebook page was filled with statements against religion of all types, although Islam was not particularly singled out. Hicks also was a gun enthusiast, as evidenced by his many postings on gun websites and also an Amazon “wish list” that included such items as rifle scopes. In addition, the sisters’ father has said that one of his daughters told him before her murder that she had a scary neighbor who appeared to be upset by the traditional Muslim hijabs the two women wore.

There are other reasons for Muslims in America to feel under siege. Recent weeks and months have been thick with news of jihadist horrors — the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris, the murder of American Kayla Mueller by the Islamic State and the beheadings and burning alive of a Jordanian pilot by the same group, the Taliban’s mass murder of 145 people at a school in Pakistan, and more.

A poll out earlier this week, from LifeWay, a Christian nonprofit research group, found that 27% of Americans now see the barbaric Islamic State as representative of mainstream Islam. A variety of politicians and pundits have been aggressively attacking Muslims and their faith, often in the guise of  working to pass laws to prevent the imposition of Shariah law on American courts — an impossibility under the Constitution.

And that’s not all.

This morning, American Muslims awoke to the news that a large building at a new Islamic community center in Houston had been entirely gutted by an early morning fire. Though officials were not saying if the blaze was caused by arson, officials at the center said they had been told that it was started by a person, although perhaps accidentally.

Imam Zahid Abdullah also told ABC News that he saw a suspicious man near the center on Wednesday and last night. “My son was passing by here and somebody was sitting her in a white Ram, making mockery, chanting, “ he said.

Another Islamic center in Houston was attacked by arsonists in 2011. There have been similar attacks on Islamic centers in Jacksonville, Fla., and Corvallis, Ore.

President Obama issued a statement about the triple homicide in Chapel Hill today that sought to reassure Muslims, calling the murders “brutal and outrageous,” and confirming that the FBI’s would see if federal laws were violated.

“No one in the United States of America should ever be targeted because of who they are, what they look like, or how they worship,” the president said.