Anti-Muslim vitriol has reached a fever pitch in the United States. Just ask the residents of Islamberg, a small community of African American Muslims in Upstate New York. In 2015, the FBI thwarted a planned attack against the community that was being led by a 63-year old Christian minister out of Tennessee. White Fright recaps the specifics of his savage plot, profiles the parents and children who were his intended targets, and attempts to uncover the influences that emboldened his predatory hatred.
As portrayed in the film, Islamberg is a place of peace, family and transparency. The media, particularly FOX News and other right leaning outlets, painted a much more sinister portrait. Through them, the public witnessed an onslaught of reports claiming that the community was a terrorist camp hidden in plain sight on American soil.
This coverage had a profound impact on Robert Doggart. He began to formulate a plan to annihilate the community. Utilizing his powers of ministerial persuasion, he recruited a small congregation of co-conspirators to assist him in this endeavor. There was an FBI informant among them. Surveillance recordings and email exchanges betrayed their gruesome plan. The families of Islamberg would be met with an agonizing demise by guns, machetes or a poisoned water supply.
Following Doggart's arrest, the same media outlets that labeled Islamberg a terrorist threat were curiously silent. With the assistance of a dedicated attorney, the community decided to mount a full-throated defense by generating their own press. Through press conferences, written pieces, rallies and other displays of activism, they continue to cry out for an existence free from harassment and discrimination.
This film is an extension of that mission. The community members open their lives to the filmmakers. Residents as young as seven years of age speak of their commitment to their families and their faith, and their fears of surviving in an increasingly hostile, irrational and intolerant cultural climate.
Produced by The Guardian, White Fright reminds us of the prominence and dangers of unchecked hate mongering. It also shows us how hate can be combated by urging for more empathy and understanding.