Last Monday, Deaborn, MI police arrested Vietnam War veteran Roger Stockham, 63, for plotting to blow up the Islamic Center of America, the largest mosque in North America. Stockham drove from his home in Imperial Beach, CA in a car packed with illegal fireworks and explosives, including M-80s, and parked outside the mosque. More than 500 members were attending a funeral at the time. Police found Stockham after receiving a tip that Stockham had threatened to harm the mosque while drinking in a Detroit bar earlier that day:
Dawud Walid, executive director of CAIR’s Michigan chapter, said he learned from police that the suspect had been drinking in a Detroit bar on Monday when he threatened to do harm to a mosque in Dearborn. A bar employee followed the man outside and wrote down his license plate and called Detroit police who in turned contacted authorities in Dearborn, Walid said.
Dearborn police began searching areas around mosques in the city and allegedly found Stockham inside his vehicle outside the Islamic Center of America, Walid said, with a load of M-80s in his trunk and other explosives. Inside more than 500 members had gathered for a funeral service, Walid said. It was not known whether the suspect knew a funeral was underway.
Members of the Islamic Center of America were alerted to the threat during Friday’s prayer service, Walid said.
“We thank law enforcement authorities for their quick and professional actions in this troubling incident,” Walid said. “The increased number of bias incidents targeting American Muslim institutions must be addressed by local, state and national officials and law enforcement authorities.”
Stockham has been charged with “one count of a threat of terrorism” and one count of explosives. Possessing a long history of anti-government activities, Stockham has “served time in federal prison for threatening to kill President George W. Bush and bomb a Vermont veterans’ clinic in 2002.” In the Vermont incident, Stockham called a local paper twice to say he was going to explode bombs in the neighborhood and identified himself as “Hem Ahadin,” a “local Muslim terrorist on a roll.” According to the affadavit filed at the time, he threatened to carry out “jihad” against the VA office. Two weeks ago, he posted a “rambling statement” on Facebook where he again “refers to himself as ‘Hem Ahadin,’ calling it his Muslim name.”
While it appears Stockham was acting alone, police did not immediately release details because, while they believed “there was no ongoing threat,” they “were also worried that the alleged plot could inspire copycats.” After all, this mosque has been targeted before. In 2004, two New York men sent threatening emails to the mosque and was vandalized in 2007 when someone scrawled “9/11 Terrorists Go Home” on the side of the building. And this is only the latest incident in the growing number of hate-filled attacks on Muslim places of worship, let alone Muslims themselves. As the Islamic Center’s Imam Sayid Hassan Al-Qazwini puts it, “When America only talks about Muslims being terrorists, they will turn a blind eye on their own terrorists.”
And while there’s no indication that Stockham was influenced by any political figure or faction, his actions are by no means isolated. As more and more pundits and politicians encourage paranoia and vilify Muslim Americans rather than responsibly speaking out against it, they cultivate an Islamophobic atmosphere of hate that make incidents like this more likely. After all, with the House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King (R-NY) preaching that “80 percent of mosques in this country are controlled by radical Imams,” it seems only a matter of time before someone like Stockham offers a “radical” solution.