The Group Islamberg Friend or Foe? is hosting a “Ride for Homeland Security” that is targeting an isolated Muslim Sufi community near the Delaware River in the Catskills. In the past, Islamberg, which is in Thompkins, NY, has been threatened by various right wing individuals, most notably Robert Doggart of Tennessee, who was convicted a few months ago and sentenced last month to almost 20 years for plotting to build a militia that would attack the community. And this ride has happened before last year , but that only brought out 5 bikers to over 400 counterprotester, and well…that’s just embarassing. So this time, Gavin McInnes’ Proud Boys are jumping into this crap. The ride was announced in The Official Proud boys magazine, repeats disproven allegations that the community is associated with terrorism. The announcement promises to have “Proud Boys, and Alt Knights, and Red Elephants, and Oath Keepers, and III%ers, and Veterans, and Bikers for Trump, and Gays for Trump, and Republicans, and Libertarians, and Democrats”. The Alt Knights are a branch of the Proud Boys that specializes in an apparently relishes street fighting. And as their announcement noted, militia groups want in as well. The primary event announcement originated on facebook and appears to have been created by a III% supporter.
The community of Islamberg was created over thirty years ago by Sheikh Mubarak Ali Gilani in order to house mostly African American Muslims escaping poverty and inner city problems in New York City. After a rocky start, the relationship with the town has been positive. But that doesn’t matter when you have a political agenda that does not jibe with reality. Enter the Proud Boys. The neo-Fascist group calls itself a “Western Chauvinist fraternal organization” but their actual structure and praxis is more like a street gang. Their initiations, like many other violent gangs includes “being punched in” which for them is being beaten while reciting the names of 5 breakfast cereals. Their 4th degree initiation which makes you an “Alt Knight” is to get in a violent fight with an “antifa”. They don’t differ much from the many gangs that inflict violence on neighborhoods throughout the US, and their penchant for their jokey style of going about their day to day is no different from the “ludicrous initiations, the baffling of public curiosity, and the amusement for members” that Albert Stevens in his 1907 Cyclopædia of Fraternities said defined the original Ku Klux Klan. The neocon Bikers for Trump is generally a group for Trump supporters to posture as tough guys, but they have reportedly participated in violence against protesters during the Inauguration and they may have played a part in violent removal of protesters during the Trump campaign. The Oath Keepers and III% have participated in the many “March against Sharia” events this year and they have provided armed security for right wing events, even neo-Nazi ones like the one recently held in Pikeville, KY.
Let’s be real: the bottom line is these groups wish to bully a small Muslim community in the Catskills. While their call asks people not to commit crimes against Islamberg, they say in their Facebook announcement they are doing this “as American Patriots prepare for what promises to be a Holy War”. The risk is that that they will attract people and inspire people who will not follow their guidelines as we have seen with Joey Gibson’s “Patriot Prayer” in Portland, or that they will provoke violent individuals like Jeremy Christian who murdered 2 people also in Portland who tried to stop him from harassing a Muslim woman on a train. People of conscience need to stand against this cowardly bullying tactic. Hopefully this years bigot biker ride will be as much of a flop as last years but let’s not just assume that’s the case.