The Hatewatch blog is managed by the staff of the Intelligence Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based civil rights organization.

The Crying Shariah Game: Groups Protest Hotel Cancellations

By Leah Nelson on October 26, 2011 - 12:01 pm, Posted in Anti-Muslim

Anti-Muslim activists are crying Shariah again – this time, over the separate decisions of hotels in two cities to cancel anti-Muslim conferences and a former Maryland state lawmaker’s call for the cancellation of a third.

Yesterday, former Maryland lawmaker Saqib Ali issued an open letter condemning an upcoming conference sponsored by Maryland Conservative Action (MDCAN). “Instead of inviting legitimate conservative speakers, MDCAN has instead chosen speakers who are well-known conspiracy theorists, McCarthyites, racists and anti-Muslim fanatics,” Ali wrote in a letter endorsed by Muslim, Latino and LGBT rights groups.

True enough. Among those slated to speak at the conference are Frank Gaffney, who has called Islam “communism with a God”; disgraced former FBI agent turned “counterterrorism expert” John Guandolo, who according to National Public Radio falsely suggested that a Jordanian-American professor had links to terrorists during an Ohio training; and racist columnist Robert Stacy McCain, once identified as a member of the neo-Confederate hate group League of the South.

“This [letter from Ali] is standard operating procedure for CAIR [Council on American-Islamic Relations] and other Muslim Brotherhood front groups,” Gaffney told the conservative website Daily Caller. “They are trying to impose what are known as Shariah blasphemy laws, whereby anyone who says anything critical about Islam, no matter how true, is to be silenced. It is actually a capital offense.”

Arch-Islamophobe Pamela Geller said much the same thing last week after a Hyatt hotel in Sugar Land, Texas, cancelled her scheduled appearance after receiving phone calls about her history of anti-Muslim vitriol. “The Hyatt Place in Sugarland [sic] caved to Islamic pressure yesterday and agreed to enforce the blasphemy law under the sharia. Cowards. Dhimmis. Free speech, the cornerstone of our constitutional republic, is in serious jeopardy,” she wrote. (The Sugar Land event was rescheduled for a different venue and went on as planned.)

On Monday, a collection of anti-Muslim organizations learned that their “Preserving Freedom Conference,” which was supposed to take place in Nashville on Nov. 11, had been cancelled by the Hutton Hotel. Among the scheduled speakers are the ever-present Geller and her SOIA co-founder Robert Spencer; Frank Gaffney; Mathew Staver of the hard-line anti-gay Liberty Counsel (which, like many groups on the Christian Right, seems to be tacking anti-Muslim these days); and Tennessee Freedom Coalition founder Lou Ann Zelenik, who made a name for herself with her rabid opposition to the construction of a Muslim community center in Murfreesboro during a failed 2010 congressional bid.

Sponsors include SIOA, Gaffney’s Center for Security Policy, Joseph Farah’s far-right online publication World Net Daily (WND), and the ironically named Religious Freedom Coalition, which declares itself “dedicated to the equality of all mankind and the freedom of religious expression.” Among the co-sponsors are the Traditional Values Coalition (another relative newcomer to the anti-Shariah bandwagon that has long been listed by the SPLC as an anti-gay hate group); Pat Robertson’s American Center for Law and Justice, which has been active in pushing anti-Shariah legislation; and Vision America, a network of “Patriot pastors and Patriot Partners” with a history of gay-bashing.

Stephen Eckley, a spokesman for Amerimar Enterprises, which owns the hotel, told The Tennessean that the hotel wouldn’t have booked the event “if this group had let us know what kind of program they were planning and who was involved.”

According to WND, Eckley cited “veiled threats that there were going to be protests that could easily erupt into violence.”

In response to the cancellation, the enraged Tennessee Freedom Coalition issued a press release calling for a boycott and claiming the Nashville hotel was denying “U.S. Christians, Jews and citizens their rights under the U.S. Constitution.” Brigitte Gabriel’s anti-Muslim ACT! for America and Judson Phillips’ Tea Party Nation – one of the most extreme factions of the tea party movement – also joined calls for a boycott.

World Net Daily, whose relationship with reality is flexible at best, is making the most of this new “threat.”

“I don’t know how to state this any more plainly: Americans are in danger of losing their precious free-speech rights guaranteed under the First Amendment due to pressure and intimidation by the Muslim Brotherhood,” WND founder Joseph Farah wrote Monday. “The ‘Muslim Mafia’ is winning – slowly, but surely, in imposing a kind of soft Shariah law on American society through fear and intimidation.”

The anti-Muslim groups’ talk of First Amendment violations – like most of what they say – is utter nonsense. There is no government censorship involved in a private hotel’s decision to not rent its space to someone.

“The first word of the First Amendment is Congress – ‘Congress shall make no law,’ which is broadly interpreted as meaning the federal government,” UCLA Law Professor Eugene Volokh told Hatewatch. “Private entities aren’t governed by the First Amendment.”

Volokh, a self-described “center-right, moderate libertarian conservative” who co-writes a legal blog called The Volokh Conspiracy, said that a boycott is also an expression of the First Amendment, one that “has long been a part of American free speech activities.”

That’s not enough for Pam Geller. In addition to her call for a boycott, the siren of anti-Shariah hysteria (who describes Muslims as “thugs” and “savages” even as she calls SIOA “one of America’s foremost organizations defending human rights, religious liberty, and the freedom of speech”) is demanding that the Sugar Land Hyatt “apologize for its capitulation to the enemies of freedom, and to hold sensitivity training sessions for all its employees to teach them the value of the freedom of speech and the truth about the jihad threat facing the U.S. and the West.”

It just so happens, Geller’s press release notes, that SIOA runs “diversity” trainings itself, to “help” “understand the jihad threat in all its different manifestations, including Islamic supremacist cultural initiatives to assert Islamic law and practice in the American workplace.”

  • Ruslan Amirkhanov



  • Mitch Beales

    Dick your “good research” smells like it comes from that dark place where you keep your head. Hizb ut-Tahrir America seems to be a Palestinian religious organization that believes governments should be based on religious law, very much like many in the GOP. Jamaat ul-Fuqra seems to be a splinter group that has not been very active for some time. The “Old Hippie’s Forums” lists the last known location for this group in Marion, AL as:
    27.Jamaat Ul Fuqra Marion Alabama where Washington St and Clements meet
    Lat: 32.63504269761637n
    Long: 87.31886386871338w NOT Confirmed
    The street level view on Google suggests that this location is actually an Episcopal Church. Why don’t you get some treatment for your agoraphobia? That might allow you to remove your head from “that dark place” long enough to get a little relief from the foul odor.

  • Ruslan Amirkhanov

    Dick, you have never given us any evidence. Most of the time you totally ignore my demands for evidence. I have seen no evidence that these groups are operating training camps in the US. I checked up on both of these groups. In any case, even if they were up to something, both have extremely controversial ideas which would prevent them from ever becoming a major force in the Islamic world.

  • Dick Lancaster

    Evidence, boys? Hizb ut-Tahrir America. Jamaat ul-Fuqra, Marion, Alabama.

    I have some good research in that dark place and am willing to share it with you all as I have been in the past. Unfortunately, I waste a lot of time preparing it for you since any posts I submit with evidence are the surest way to get me “moderated.”

    Let’s try some key words this time and see if I get through.

  • Mitch Beales

    Evidence Ruslan? Dick just pulls these things out of the dark place where he keeps his head most of the time. And I don’t mean Alabama!

  • Mdmom

    What BS- I was one of the protesters and no one threatened anyone or the hotel. And our group was made up of Muslims, Christians and Jews- we were a small group of 15 but I bet in religion and color , we were much more diverse than the mdCAN hatefest.

  • Terry Washington

    Woe is me, woe is me, WOE IS ME- isn’t just terrible what we Islamophobes have to put up with?!


  • Christopher L. Gibson

    I applaud these two hotels for what I call “doing the right thing”. I am sick and tired of these hate-mongers preying on the legitimate fear created after 9/11 to spread their perverted beliefs about how they say that the Muslims are taking over America. Nobody complains when Jewish synagogues or Buddhist temples are built, but as soon as someone wants to build a Muslim mosque there are cries of terrorists moving in. When are these idiots ever going to wake up and see reality for what it really is, and accept that there is not threats around every corner and quit exploiting fears.

  • Ruslan Amirkhanov

    “But our peace-loving, cut-throat Muslim brothers hold their annual confrence in Chicago each year to plan strategy to destroy the West. No hotel thus far has dared to refuse them.

    And those terrorist training camps? There are about 30 or 40 now in the US, one of which is not very far from me in Alabama. I’m sorry but I’m not allowed in to report on their activities but a few of their recruits do visit me in Mississippi.”

    Evidence, Dick.

  • Leslie

    If they read the constitution they would realize that it is impossible for Sharia law to be imposed on any U.S. citizen. Remember that this is the reason we have the separation of church and state unlike many muslim countries.

  • Dick Lancaster

    It is true that the First Amendment applies only to restraints on Congress but you can get around that by forcing a hotel to host your hatefest simply by threatening to kill them if they don’t. It doesn’t appear that our right wing Muslim haters have learned that yet. But our peace-loving, cut-throat Muslim brothers hold their annual confrence in Chicago each year to plan strategy to destroy the West. No hotel thus far has dared to refuse them.

    And those terrorist training camps? There are about 30 or 40 now in the US, one of which is not very far from me in Alabama. I’m sorry but I’m not allowed in to report on their activities but a few of their recruits do visit me in Mississippi.

  • Christopher Hobe Morrison

    My former academic advisor in international affairs used to give what I thought was too much respect to Frank Gaffney when he worked for the Pentagon, and he was chewing the carpet then and sounded like he thought that a Third World War would be a great thing. I wonder what he thinks of Mr. Gaffney now.

  • Aron

    ^Derek in Iowa,

    I think that would be totally nifty. And I would be more than happy to donate fifty dollars to that cause.

    (And when that comes from an unemployed recent graduate, you know that means something. LOL!)

  • JimRinX

    I couldn’t read all of this, but I got far enough to go – SAY WHAT?
    A “Muslim Brotherhood front-group” has penned/signed a letter WITH a poorly defined number of (assumedly Catholic) Latino, AND an equally poorly defined number of (assumedly GAY) LGBT Personages?
    SAY WHAT, Pam?
    BTW: Do you realize that is we actually DID have “Shariah Law” – or, at least the Economic Interactions Bits of it – then there would have been no 2007, no 1987, no 1929, no – Get It?

  • twotif


    People of different races, religions and other types are simply NEVER going to come together as one. It simply won’t happen.

    It is in our nature/dna to fear that which is different than us and that which we don’t ubderstand.

    It’s in our nature to destroy ourselves.

    Sucks eh!

  • Karla

    No my friend, these people are not confused, they are extremely greedy opportunists who make a fortune selling their b.s. to easily led people.

  • Nelson R.

    Not only are these far right wing squirrel nut jobs confused but the whole lot of them are haters of the worst kind. Singling out a specific group or religion for the kind of vitriolic hatred that has come to be a hallmark of those organizations is the worst possible occurrence of the dissolution of the Bill of Rights.
    All Americans, all people whether Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Pagan, or atheist are equal under the law. We cannot abide the continued displays of hatred and the vitriolic attacks that are the hallmark of the Anti-Muslim Movement.
    To stop this kind of hatred, all peoples must come together and support all others. We must recognize that we are one. The motto on the coinage of America is, “E Pluribus Unum,” translated, Out of many ONE! Don’t let this kind of concerted attack on anyone continue, support organizations that are making a difference in the lives of those attacked on a daily basis, whether LGBT, Muslim, and anyone who suffers needlessly at the hands of another.

  • Derek in Iowa

    Somebody needs to get a group of people and a little money together and sponsor a conference somewhere called “Sharia Law – It’s Awesome!” Then sit back and watch these idiots chew their own faces off.

  • Ruslan Amirkhanov

    So private businesss are no longer allowed to control their own property, because to do so constitutes Sharia law. These people are extremely confused.