Just beyond the gated entrance to the tiny Catskills community of Holy Islamberg, population 200, cows graze and ducks glide on a tranquil pond. Modest houses of wood and cinder block sit along the hamlet's single thoroughfare, a rutted dirt road without traffic signs.
Islamberg sits about 150 miles northwest of New York City, but the small enclave of Muslim families living on shared land feels a world away from city life, which is what its founders intended 30 years ago, when they established the hamlet on 70 acres of pasture land and dense woods in upstate New York.
Last month, however, the community's serenity was disrupted by news that a Tennessee man had pleaded guilty to charges of plotting an attack on Islamberg and its residents.
An array of far-right organizations see things very differently. Dozens of internet postings and a documentary film have characterized the community as a training camp for terrorists and its residents as Islamist warriors.
One blog on the Christian Action Network, for example, described the settlement as "America's first Islamic government," and warned that children are being raised to fight a holy war, that girls are denied an education and that rule breakers "are often tied to trees and whipped for disobeying."
Robert Doggart, a one-time congressional candidate from Tennessee, embraced that sort of overheated rhetoric as he plotted his attack on the Muslim enclave. In wire-tapped phone calls and in meetings with Federal Bureau of Investigation informants, Doggart put out the call for a militia to attack Islamberg, saying he intended to destroy its mosque and gun down residents who tried to stop him.
Read more: Reuters