FBI searching for armed anti-Muslim protester after Facebook threat to Muslim community in New York
Residents and authorities in a rural upstate New York community were taking precautions after an Arizona man posted a video online showing himself with a gun and saying he was traveling to the town for a possible confrontation, according to media reports.
Jon Ritzheimer, of Phoenix, Arizona, was seen with a gun and claiming that he was heading to Islamberg, a rural hamlet that is home to a small Muslim community about 130 miles northwest of New York City, the reports said. His comments could be viewed as threatening, they said.
Ritzheimer posted the video on Facebook, according to the reports.
New York City’s Daily News, citing sources, reported that the FBI had issued an alert to law enforcement agencies to look out for him.
“After recently becoming aware of a video which could have been perceived as threatening against the Muslim community in Hancock, N.Y., the FBI immediately took steps to notify our federal, state and local partners,” the paper quoted a spokeswoman for the FBI’s Albany field office as saying.
Neither the FBI or Ritzheimer could be contacted immediately by Reuters.
It was at least the second threat against the town this year, after an ex-Congressional candidate from Tennessee was accused of plotting to burn down a mosque and use an assault rifle against anyone who tried to stop him.
Robert Doggart, who made a failed bid for Congress in 2014 as an independent with highly conservative views, pleaded guilty in April to interstate communication of threats.
Formed by a group of African-American Muslims from New York City, the community follows the teachings of Pakistani Sufi cleric Mubarik Ali Shah Gilani, who during the 1980s urged his American acolytes to leave metropolitan areas and establish rural communities centered on religious life.
Islamberg is one of about a dozen Muslim enclaves formed in accordance with the cleric’s ideas. It also serves as home to Muslims of America, a Gilani-founded organization.
The Muslims of America have called for Ritzheimer’s arrest, according to the reports.
“We let the FBI know as soon as we saw the video,” a report quoted spokesman Muhammad Matthew Gardner as saying. “We upped our security at all our properties.”
Watch video of Ritzheimer threatening Muslims and mosques, uploaded to YouTube by the New York Daily News:
(Reporting by Chris Michaud; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman)