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Doggart- the Tennessee Terrorist

MuslimMatters

Published

By Khalil Meeks

Federal law enforcement agents caught a real terrorist. He was plotting to attack a small town in New York, burn its buildings and kill its residents. The terrorist was planning to bring like-minded militants and various weapons to help him kill as many people as he could.

“If it gets down to the machete, we will cut them to shreds.”

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No informant provided the plot or tried to convince him to commit these crimes. This would-be massacre was the sole creation of this real-life terrorist.

Federal prosecutors secured a plea deal on April 24. The defendant in this case admitted to “threatening an armed attack and firebombing of a New York… community.” A victory for the F.B.I. Yet, the agency did not issue a press release or hold a press conference touting this latest win in their war on terror. No well-orchestrated media circus followed this plea deal.

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In fact, federal prosecutors were only seeking charges related to violating “civil rights laws, specifically a violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 247(a)(1), intentionally defacing, damaging, or destroying any religious real property, because of the religious character of that property, or attempting to do so” and threatening to kidnap or injure others.

This individual, who was planning to attack with a small army and kill innocent people, was not charged with any terrorism related crimes. None.

His name? Robert Doggart.

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His target? Approximately 200 Muslim residents in Islamberg, NY.

Doggart is an ordained Christian minister. He is a Navy veteran. He is an engineer with a Ph.D in engineering management from LaSalle University. He is white, Protestant and a Tennessee native. He ran for Congress in 2014 and received 9,200 votes. He referenced his faith as justification for his crimes.

I do not mention these facts to shed a negative light on Christianity, veterans, engineers, LaSalle graduates, whites, Tennesseans or congressional candidates. None of these characteristics are relevant to this individual’s crimes. I mention these facts to highlight the vast differences in how Muslims and non-Muslims are treated by federal law enforcement and the media.

If Doggart was a Muslim, does anyone doubt the news media would be whipped into a panic-filled frenzy over the F.B.I.’s latest terror arrest? Does anyone doubt that the F.B.I. would pursue terrorism-related criminal charges? Does anyone doubt that the F.B.I. would be calling this their latest victory in their war on terror?

When the F.B.I. accuses a Muslim of committing a crime, terrorism charges are often thrown in his or her face. In fact, federal law enforcement spokespersons often describe Muslim defendants as terrorists even when no terrorism charges are involved in the case. This was true for Aafia Siddiqui, Ibrahim Dremali, Rafil Dhafir and others.

Adding a terrorism label to a criminal cases also increases the prison terms. It’s called “terrorism enhancement sentencing guidelines” and can more than double the time a defendant spends in prison. These guidelines seem to have been written just for Muslims.

This comes as no surprise. The federal law enforcement agents received training from anti-Muslim extremists who teach them to view Muslims as violent and radical. Not just some Muslims… all Muslims.

The Doggart case just affirms what we’ve observed for more than a decade. Muslims are treated differently in the American justice system. The “terrorism” label is often thrown at Muslims in an apparent attempt to increase the chances for convictions – and it seems to be working. Terrorism is scary and no one wants to let a terrorist go free. But when these labels are reserved for a special classification of people (i.e., Muslims), then a separate and unequal system of justice is created.

And that’s a system of injustice.

Doggart is currently out of jail on a $30,000 bond as he waits for a judge to sign the plea deal. If signed, Doggart faces up to five years in prison for planning to massacre 200 Muslims… men, women and children.

Five years… not 65, 86 or life in prison. Just five years.

Hopefully, this case highlights the need to defend Muslims against injustice in the American court system. Hopefully, this case sheds additional light on the problems Muslims face when caught up in the controversial, biased and unfair targeting and discrimination against Muslims by law enforcement and the courts. Hopefully, this case serves as an example of how important it is for Muslims and all supporters of equality and freedom to “stand out firmly for justice” because this is not the only “if he were Muslim he would have been called a terrorist” case in America.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=362&v=5Rxt_xQ4OGM[/youtube]

Khalil Meeks is the Executive Director of Muslim Legal Fund of America —a national charity that funds legal work and programs to defend Muslims against injustice in American courtrooms, prisons and communities. Established in 2001, MLFA has defended freedom of speech, association, and religion as well as the right to a fair trial and other constitutional rights.

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10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Peter Hall

    May 29, 2015 at 10:31 PM

    Hi

    Well what you say is right, in that the US Government should go harder on this American, caught planning to kill 200 Muslims.

    Yet the Islamic cleric, who inspired and planned the bali bombings that actually did kill over 202 people, how long did he spend in prison?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abu_Bakar_Bashir

    Less than 2.5 years in prison, and he had many priors, so before you are critical of the West, you should hold your own household to account, otherwise you are just being a hypocrite.

    Can you tell me how many Muslims massacres, by American extremists have taken place in the USA in the last 100 years?

    The answer is zero,

    How many Americans have been massacred by Muslim extremists in the last 100 years, in Muslim countries?

    They number in their tens of 1000s.

    So the danger here, is the utter failure of muslim Governments to stop the slaughter of non muslims. Not what you claim, which has no basis in fact. Actually you are a hypocrite, and trying to turn Muslims into perpetual victims.

    So your cries of the need to protect Americans Muslims is just deceitful, scare mongery and grand standing, you should be ashamed. Muslims are safer in the USA than in nearly every Muslim majority country in the world.

    • Avatar

      Ismail

      May 30, 2015 at 1:32 AM

      I like how you start all you comments with, “Well, what you say is right”, then go on a self-contradictory tirade. You right-wingers are all blind in one eye.

    • Avatar

      afzal aslam

      May 30, 2015 at 11:58 PM

      @peter hall your comments are irrelevant to the post we are Americans and talking about our justice system and freedom of religion given to us by constitution. we don’t care what other countries do or don’t we live in a free country where no matter who you are means any religion race or color should be treated the same, first of all take racism out of your mind and do some research your research seems to me is from the bias media and propaganda of anti islam forces, it will definitely help you think straight. And I am sorry didn’t wanted to be mean but I am tired of this racist and hateful uneducated negative comments, first of meet some Muslims see what they practice and the hardship they face, and learn about islam and then we see how right you are and how wrong we are .

      • Avatar

        Keith

        May 31, 2015 at 9:11 AM

        Why don’t you care what happens in other countries? Surely if you live a safe and happy life in the US the fact that people are being killed in the name of your religion in countries that are dominated by your religion and the leaders of those countries are not taking a hard line against the perpetrators should be of concern to you, as it would be to me.
        You rightfully, as a minority, expect to be treated with respect, tolerance and equality in the country you live in so why is it no concern of yours if other countries treat minorities in a manner that you would find repulsive if you were treated that way in the US?

    • Avatar

      Taqwa

      May 31, 2015 at 5:12 AM

      Ah so you’re one of those people who spread around to simpletons this gem of a fallacy: “Not all Muslims are terrorists but all terrorists are Muslim”…

      • Avatar

        AMK

        June 1, 2015 at 11:30 AM

        @Keith While I care about how Governments outside USA treat minorities – and it’s absolutely unacceptable for any human being regardless of religion to be treated with injustice and inequality – as US citizens our first concern is at home and making sure our justice system stays as the best in the world – we don’t want to ruin it by getting influenced on who is doing what outside USA – world history is full of nut cases from all faiths and religions. And Yes there are barbaric acts being committed in the name of the Muslim religion that does not mean I will start acting and behaving like one and nor should anyone else.

        We are where we are because we have equality, justice, peace for all and freedom of religion. As the balance of these items starts to waiver – it never ever results in happy healthy and prosperous nation, culture, society , country ….

    • Avatar

      Chey Impunity

      September 19, 2015 at 5:07 AM

      Okay let us start with the first question, as of to date there has been: three Muslim students killed over a “parking space”, a Muslim man beaten and stabbed while having anti-Islam banter screamed at him, a Muslim child has been arrested for bringing a clock to school, two boys planned the bombing of a mosque in Chicago, a mosque vandalized in st.paul Minnesota, in Kansas a Muslim teen murdered in hit and run attack, in Ohio a mosque was set on fire, not including the mosque burned to the ground in California, Oklahoma, and Missouri, a home attack in Florida, let me also leave out all the hate comments and messages (bullying. death threats) that not only wish death to the people of Islam but also promotes the violent crimes happening to us. Let me also mention the most recent anti-islam speech in presidential debates….
      The fact of the matter is this, due to people on the complete other side of world acting like idiots, Muslims in America, France, Syria, and else where that are trying to do something good and just be peaceful are being brutally attacked and killed.As Muslims it is our job to teach the truth of Islam it also our job to report on and voice concern about the crimes committed against our brothers and sisters. Before you leave a comment about Muslims playing victim, do some research.

  2. Avatar

    Kashif

    June 1, 2015 at 10:57 AM

    Like it or not, US is the dominant world super power. It dictates pretty much every single country in the world to be compliant. It is able to help the innocent people of Burma (Muslims) but it is allowing them to be massacred. It acts like it is unable to do anything but that wouldn’t be the case if it was one of their own kind. If I was US and they handed down 2.5 years sentence to a confirmed terrorist, I would turn Indonesia upside down until they max the sentence. The small sentence is either an innocent person framed as terrorist or a confirmed terrorist being used to make Islam look bad so crimes against Muslims can be justified elsewhere. The super power has the ability to enforce either option twisting things around. It’s easy. Being a super power and just; that’s hard and Islam demonstrated that to the world during Prophet Muhammad’s time and the three succeeding generations. Powers change hands by God’s will and US is doing a very very bad job; going down in history. If Muslims want power then they must prove to Allah that they are capable, just, and will give people the rights back and stop every kind of injustice regardless of race, color, or nationality as they once did in the past. Let us re-create the Age of Enlightenment of Muslim Spain without the mistakes made during that era. Amazing things will happen!

  3. Avatar

    Dyyf

    June 6, 2015 at 10:04 AM

    A terrorism law charge isn’t appropriate here. If you look through the list of attempted terrorism you see the longest sentences are for people who either carried out the act (Doggert didn’t even get to initial planning stages and resource acquirement) and they were either trained by Al Qeada, got support from Al Qaeda or provided support for Al Qaeda. A terrorist group which has EXPLICITLY STATED that it is at war with American.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_unsuccessful_terrorist_plots_in_the_United_States_post-9/11

    I do believe that Doggert should NOT have gotten released with bail. The judge should have locked into a mental health institution. He’s a nut and a lone wolf.

  4. Avatar

    Christy

    July 8, 2015 at 8:22 PM

    7/8/15 Update:
    A federal grand jury indicted a Tennessee man Tuesday on charges stemming from his alleged plot carry out a coordinated attack on Muslims in Islamberg, New York.

    Robert Rankin Doggart, 63, had already been jailed on a separate set of charges related to the alleged plot. He made national headlines earlier this week after he was released from jail and put into house arrest pending the disposition of that case. Doggart now faces up to 10 years in prison.

    So how many mosques did he burn down? How many Muslim people were injured or killed?

    I checked his ministry credentials. He bought them online from an online-only “church” called the National Christian Church. He is a bogus minister with bogus credentials bought online from a bogus ‘church’. Do muslims also know who Satan is and how he operates? This guy is an example of that.

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#Society

Beyond 2020: Grounding Our Politics in Community

Kyle Ismail, Guest Contributor

Published

As tense and agonizing as these unending election days have been, it pales in comparison to the last four years.  I plainly remember how it all began on the night of November 07, 2016. I watched as the political map of the US became increasingly red late into the night. All the social media banter, conspiracy theories and left-wing critiques of candidate Hillary Clinton, formed an amorphous blob of white noise as I heard Trump announced as the next president. Now that Trump has run for re-election, half the country was hoping for a repudiation but will have to settle for the fact that despite a small margin, Donald J. Trump will not have a second chance to erode our democratic institutions and divide us. But we can’t move forward until each of us acknowledges our own pathological role in what we’ve become as a deeply divided country. 

We need to grapple with how we can gradually improve the circus-like reality that has become our ordinary, daily politics. We’ll relive more and perhaps improved “Trumps” if we don’t accept our own responsibility in creating a divided America. This starts with being better members of local communities. Here are a few of Trump-induced realizations that I’ve come to accept:

  1. Caring about our immediate neighbors and listening to their challenges and concerns is the part of political engagement that we all have to embrace above and beyond actually voting if we hope to be more than a 50/50 nation.
  2. Social media and its profit-driven algorithms are actually eroding how we see each other but could also be altered to help better educate us about our local social/political landscape.
  3. Local Politics has direct impact on our lives and is also at the heart our religious obligations to our neighbors. It also sets the tone for where the federal level derives policies that prove to be best practices (some examples are included below).
  4. Agitation and protest are not the same as being politically organized on a local level. Protest is sometimes needed, but it will never replace consistent and patient work. We learned this lesson with the Arab Spring as that movement failed to transform into a movement that was able to govern effectively. And the same appears to be true about the Black Lives Matter movement.

The voting is over for now. But voting is really the smallest part of being committed to bettering our communities. It was Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) who gave the most specific definition of community/neighbor and encouraged his followers to guard the rights of the neighbor:

“Your neighbor is 40 houses ahead of you and 40 houses at your back, 40 houses to your left and 40 houses to your right” Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him)

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Why does this relate to being politically organized?? The need for political organizing comes when any group of people want to create change in accordance with their values. We’ve all watched protest after protest that change little to nothing at the neighborhood level. This will continue to happen without organization, which span school boards, block clubs, nonprofits, and religious community outreach.  How can Muslims enjoin right and discourage wrong in any meaningful way? It comes through having authentic relationships with neighbors and turning that into organized and engaged communities.

Rosa Parks

Nothing illuminates the value of such relationships better than the story of Rosa Parks in her role in the Montgomery Bus Boycott. People often think that she was the first brave soul to defy the custom of allowing whites to sit before African-Americans could be seated on her city’s buses. Nothing could be further from the truth. The difference was that her sets of relationships were so interwoven into her local community that it forced a massive response. Park’s connections spanned socioeconomic circles as she had close friendships from professors to field hands. She held memberships in a dozen local organizations including her church and the local NAACP. She was a volunteer seamstress in poor communities and provided the same for profit in wealthy white circles. When someone with her relational positioning was able to leverage the political organizing ability of MLK and Dr. Ralph Abernathy, the Montgomery Bus Boycott was sparked.

When something happens to Muslims, who can we mobilize to respond? Who becomes angry? Who do we work with in our communities to create policies that reflect our values And what are our internal barriers to such cooperation?

“Whosoever of you sees an evil action, let him change it with his hand; and if he is not able to do so, then with his tongue; and if he is not able to do so, then with his heart—and that is the weakest of faith.” Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him)

Our Predecessors Organized Locally

At some point in time voting became the sum total of political engagement in the minds of many and is now deemed by some as worthless. We quickly forget that the organizations that battled for voting rights were first locally organized to improve communities. SNCC, SNCC, CORE, NAACP, and the Urban League all formed to create change in various ways and the fight for voting rights was a component of these local agendas. So when we’re tempted to believe that voting doesn’t matter, it’s likely due to our lack of engagement in local issues that form the contours of our community life. If you’ve ever heard of Ella Baker or Fannie Lou Hamer (worth researching!), you probably never bought into this type of logic.

One of the many lessons we can pull from this rich history is that we cannot pursue policies, seek alliances, or negotiate a position with political parties (see Ice Cube’s debacle in negotiating with Trump) without first being organized from within. No set of friendships or outside philanthropic support can supplant the need for internal organization. This lack of organized political engagement has weakened Muslims in general but has fatally weakened African-American Muslims as voices within the larger Black community – a voice that gave Islam its first fully accepted and influential place in American society.

Immigrant-based Muslim communities could also benefit from a local approach because despite being several generations in America, their American bonafides are still not set in stone. Concerns about Islamophobia will not change outside of developing authentic relationships with non-Muslims.

This also pushes back against a culture shaped disproportionately by social media algorithms that promote isolation and division for the sake of profit. Our attention to the national news cycle also takes our attention away from local communities where our power is formed. In this type of political malaise, re-engagement in local politics and community relationships can bring us back to important principles that resonate with the values of Islam.

Local politics help shape federal policy

The final word on any law or policy rests with the federal government, but much of what becomes orthodoxy begins with a few concerned citizens in local communities. As with community policing, criminal justice reform, climate sustainability, or any issues that has not caught on, the federal government will often step back to see how a new law plays out at state and local levels. Illinois didn’t wait for Obamacare but has a well-established program to ensure that anyone 18 and younger in Illinois has health insurance through a program called All Kids . Colorado has, in the midst of protests against police brutality, altered their law of Qualified Immunity to make police more accountable. And California has advanced the conversation on reparations  by sanctioning a study to understand how the state could benefit by redressing the descendants of American slavery.

By advancing issues and electing representatives who support the causes we believe in, we insert ourselves into a narrative that would’ve otherwise been forged without us. There’s no shortcut in this process short of rolling up our sleeves to understand our local systems and existing organizations. Moneyed interests are prepare to control the narrative regardless of who the president is and we have to remake this system from the ground up. Our history provides us with a roadmap to do this and it goes far beyond being citizens who only argue over national issues while standing on the sidelines. Remembering our 40 neighbors as advised by the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) is the best place to start.

Some helpful links:

Local Elections

State Legislatures

School Boards

County Prosecutors

Mayors

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#Current Affairs

Why Boycotting France is the Wrong Response

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“I don’t think it’s safe to come visit you in France with your Aunt…she wears a hijab, and she will have trouble getting around”, my mother nervously quipped as we discussed travel arrangements for their trip. 

“Of course it’s safe! How could you say that? There are women wearing hijab all over this country!”  I protested, as I tried to assuage her concerns.

I was living as an expat in France when my family was planning their visit to the country last year. I was surprised to hear the reservations from my own folk; it went on to highlight the pre-conceived notions Muslims often have about the French. “They hate Muslims!” “They are racists” “They insult our Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him)!”. The list goes on.  

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Having spent a considerable amount of time in France, Quebec and Suisse-Romande, I’ve developed an affinity towards the French culture, language and people. I’ve never felt marginalized in these lands because of my dark skin, my Muslim faith, or my never-ending struggle with French conjugation. Yes, I am privileged in many ways, but that doesn’t negate the validity of my experiences. 

I was thus naturally taken aback by the recent calls to boycott France in light of the opportunistic and contemptable actions of Emmanuel Macron. If these boycotts made me uncomfortable, I can imagine how much more offended the average French person would have been. Macron’s decision to first politicize an unspeakable crime, and then to insult our Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was a deplorable move. It exposed his true colors and showed us that he is just another disdainful politician who seeks to divide, rather than build bridges. 

As pitiful as Macron’s actions are, is the Muslim response calling for boycotts of France justified? Is it fair to hold all of France guilty for the comments made by its President? Are we not only advancing the ‘Us vs Them’ narrative that extremists on both sides want? No one holds all of America responsible for the ridiculous comments that Trump makes – why a different standard for France? 

Collective guilt is a serious disease that we must overcome. We need to stop holding a people accountable for the actions of a few. We need to stop blaming a people for the actions of their ancestors. French corporations, that employ thousands of Muslims across the world, did not insult the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) – so why take them to task? French Muslims have not called for these boycotts, so why are we advocating for them?  If we collectivize and boycott all of France, how are we any different from those who hold all Muslims responsible for the violence perpetrated by a few? 

We need to abandon the ‘Us vs Them’ mindset; this parochial idea of ‘Islam vs the West’ or ‘Islam vs France’. We need to adopt a post-nationalist worldview where we look at all people as one, as our own. There is no ‘Them’ – it is all ‘Us’. It is ‘Us’ against hatred, bigotry, divisiveness, and racism. It is ‘Us’ against those in power, on both sides, who seek to exploit ‘Us’ for political and personal gain. 

As one people, we should never advocate for boycotts which seek to create divisions and animosity between ‘Us’. Blanket consumer boycotts are short lived and have a minimal impact regardless. What lives long past the boycott are the feelings of resentment, hatred and enmity directed towards an entire nation. Our Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) is a prophet to all people, to the French people – our people. We must not partake in actions which alienate our kin from being receptive to his message.  

Know that paltry cartoons will not take away from the rank of the Chosen One. One of his miracles in these modern times, is that those wishing to disparage him have been unable to succeed. His enemies have caricaturized him over and over again, but none of their images have stuck around or gained acceptance. Despite all of these attempts, the only descriptor with which he continues to be universally recognized is that of prophethood. You read a headline: ‘Artist makes images of the Prophet’, and you know instantly who ‘the Prophet’ refers to regardless of who you are. Unqualified, the word always brings to mind the thought of one man!   

Even those that don’t believe in him call him ‘the Prophet Muhammad’ – lips refuse to utter his name with anything other than his noble epithet. So, fear not about the Prophet’s ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) rank – for the one being praised by angels in the Heavens cannot be belittled by lowly men here on Earth. 

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#Current Affairs

OpED: Sri Preston Kulkarni’s War on Facts

MuslimMatters

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“Things come apart so easily when they have been held together with lies.” — Dorothy Allison (American Writer)

By Ghazala Salam, Founder & President, Muslim Caucus

Elections are a time when stretching the truth is the norm rather than the exception, and “fact checking” an imperative for anyone who wants to make an informed decision about their vote. However, nowhere has the narrative collided as head on with the truth as in the campaign of Sri Preston Kulkarni, Democratic candidate for the Texas Congressional District #22. Such is the brazenness of Kulkarni’s lies that multiple groups that have vowed to vote President Trump out of office believe it is in the best interest of the district and the country if Kulkarni loses his second bid for a place in the US House of Representatives, his purported commitment to the Democratic platform notwithstanding.

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Many are understandably curious about the reason for so many Democrats turning against a candidate from the party they normally support. To be clear, it is not so much Kulkarni’s campaign narrative, as the conflict between that narrative and the truth. To many voters of District 22, Kulkarni’s campaign ostensibly stands for human rights and religious freedom, and against fascism and nationalism. Unfortunately, and as multiple exposes that are now going viral have demonstrated, Kulkarni’s association with fascist and nationalist elements both in India and the US run deep, and indeed are the key drivers of his candidacy.

Kulkarni is no ordinary immigrant success story, having come from a family with deep connections to India’s ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and its ideological parent, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). The RSS is one of the world’s largest militia, and the ideological fountainhead of Hindutva, a fascist and supremacist ideology that seeks to turn India into a Hindu state, where Christians, Muslims and other religious minorities are relegated to the status of second-class citizens with few rights. In the last two decades, front organizations of the RSS in America have fielded multiple candidates for political office, some of whom have gone on to make significant contributions to advancing Hindutva’s agenda in Washington, DC. It is no surprise therefore, that the RSS’s American affiliate, the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS), are among the primary backers of Kulkarni’s candidacy. The irony of a man who claims to stand against racism, fascism and nationalism, being backed by the same forces that assassinated Mahatma Gandhi is something Kulkarni would prefer voters don’t pay attention to.

However, the connection with RSS is based on more than just mutual benefit. Kulkarni is the nephew of the late Pramod Mahajan, a highly influential Indian politician and minister, who was an RSS veteran and the BJP’s chief strategist. He held several important cabinet positions including Defense, and until his murder in 2006 by another uncle of Sri Kulkarni, Mahajan was considered the “heir apparent” to the Hindu nationalist Prime Minister A. B. Vajpayee. Mahajan was among the key organizers of L. K. Advani’s Rath Yatra, a campaign that finally led to the criminal demolition of the Babri Mosque and the subsequent killing of over 3,000 people in sectarian violence across India.

What is striking about Kulkarni’s candidacy is not just these RSS connections that are now falling out of the proverbial closet, but Kulkarni’s silly attempt at feigning ignorance about the RSS, claiming he did not know it was an organization until two years ago. This is rich, coming from a man who claims to have been a career diplomat, and whose next posting before he quit the Foreign Service was going to be in New Delhi. Kulkarni has gone on record to say that Ramesh Bhutada, the Vice-President of HSS, was “like a father,” to him, and his son Rishi Bhutada was among those without whose support the campaign itself might not have been possible.

Another relative of Sri Kulkarni is the well-known Indian politician Gopinath Munde, who married Mahajan’s sister. Munde was a member of Modi’s cabinet before his death in a road accident, and was once in charge of the RSS branches in the city of Pune. Kulkarni’s cousin Poonam Mahajan, currently a member of the Indian Parliament, was once the national President of the BJP “Youth Wing” and the Secretary of the BJP in 2013.

Much to Kulkarni’s discomfiture, his fascist friends are actually flaunting their connection to him, starting with BJP ideologue Subramanian Swamy, hailing Kulkarni’s candidacy as “Hindutva’s hope in Houston.” Yet, Kulkarni wants voters to believe him when he claims ignorance about the RSS.

The struggle with facts continues, with Kulkarni claiming without proof, a lineage from the famed General Sam Houston. Short on facts are also Kulkarni’s claims of expertise on issues of national security, as he has provided almost no details of his tenure in the Foreign Service. Kulkarni’s complete refusal to acknowledge his campaign’s connections to RSS should also be seen in light of the fact that the RSS’s nationalist and Islamophobic agenda finds a natural ally in the Republican Party, particularly in Donald Trump. It is no surprise therefore, that Prime Minister Modi was welcomed in Houston by President Trump and prominent Republicans at a massive “Howdy Modi” rally in September 2019. The same Rishi Bhutada who helped Kulkarni launch his campaign was one of the main organizers and spokesperson for the event. Not to be outdone, Prime Minister Modi broke protocol in giving President Trump a rousing endorsement for reelection during the latter’s visit to India.

None of these would have been uncomfortable truths for Kulkarni, had he been running as a Republican. However, Kulkarni’s candidacy as a Democrat flies in the face of facts, and the support he is getting from many of the district’s Democrat voters is more the result of revulsion against President Trump than a proper vetting of Kulkarni’s politics.

If Kulkarni makes it to Capitol Hill, expect stonewalling on issues of human rights and religious freedom by right wing forces around the world. With Kulkarni as their representative, South Asian voters can forget about any accountability for India, for its egregious violations of human rights and religious freedom. In a “letter to the Muslim community,” apparently conscious of the growing disquiet about his candidacy among Muslims, liberals and progressives, Kulkarni brags about having taken a stand on the “violence in Delhi” and the “situation in Kashmir,” as evidence of his commitment to human rights and religious freedom. In truth, both statements by Kulkarni are ritualistic expressions of standing for peace and human rights, while failing to call out the role of ideologically driven violence against religious minorities. The perpetrators of such violence are widely known to be proponents of the same ideology whose affiliates in the US are among his donors. Such statements are actually a disservice to the victims of sectarian violence for they seek to obfuscate the role of Hindu nationalism in driving such persecution.

Kulkarni’s has apparently promised to take a public position against the use of India’s National Register of Citizens (NRC) and the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) to strip citizenship away from India’s Muslim citizens. Absent from Kulkarni’s narrative is any mention of how the CAA and NRC are discriminatory in their essence against people of the Muslim faith, and a clear violation of India’s secular Constitution. Clearly Kulkarni is not on the same page as respected human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. How Kulkarni is expected to be vocal about civil rights in the US, while actively shielding those who are eroding these very rights abroad defies explanation.

Similarly, Kulkarni has issued a statement on the “situation” in Kashmir that does nothing to shine the light on the historic betrayal of the Kashmiri people represented by the revocation of Article 370, and the enormous human suffering caused by the Government of India’s tyrannical curfew and lockdown, imposed long before Covid-19. In this regard, Kulkarni apparently does not want to displease his RSS supporters by condemning the unprecedented human rights catastrophe in Kashmir, something many prominent Democrats have done, in the form of statements and House resolutions. For Kulkarni to call out the role of the India’s Hindu nationalist government in causing such suffering on Kashmir’s civilian population is unthinkable. In fact, Kulkarni is loath to even call out the Indian military’s tyranny in Kashmir, and instead prefers to advise the Indian government “behind closed doors,” through the “ladder of diplomacy.”

The truth about Sri Kulkarni’s campaign is closely tied to the money trail. Kulkarni has accepted in excess of $80,000 from just 10 families linked to RSS affiliates in the United States. Despite repeated demands by voters in his district to return such tainted donations, Kulkarni has instead doubled down, attacking those raising concerns as “nefarious actors,” while claiming he was unaware of the RSS as an organization.

It is possible that Kulkarni is genuine in his advocacy for the environment and his concern about gun violence. However, his janus-faced campaign is being weighed down by its own internal contradictions and his refusal to come clean on important facts that affect his prospective constituents. Among all the lies of the 2020 elections, Kulkarni’s claim that he is against fascism and nationalism must rank among the most brazen.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own.

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