Marriott International has no intention of acquiescing to a demand from Muslim activists that an October convention of the ACT for America organization at the Marriott Crystal Gateway in Arlington, Va., be canceled.
“We are a hospitality company that provides public accommodations and function space,” a Marriott spokesman told PJM. “Acceptance of business does not indicate support or endorsement of any group or individual.”
“Marriott clearly and proudly states on its website that ‘diversity and inclusion is fundamental to our core values and strategic business goals,’” Muslim Advocates public advocacy director Scott Simpson wrote to Arne Sorenson, president and CEO of Marriott International.
“We believe that hosting this anti-Muslim convention is antithetical to this otherwise clear commitment,” Simpson added.
Muslim Advocates is a civil rights organization that “works on the front lines of civil rights to guarantee freedom and justice for Americans of all faiths,” according to the group’s website.
Muslim Advocates’ mission, as the group’s name would imply, is focused on three points: “counter anti-Muslim hate by challenging bigotry and hate crimes, empower communities by strengthening American Muslim charities and educating people about their legal rights, fight discrimination with high impact lawsuits against those who wrongfully target American Muslims.”
Muslim Advocates has claimed credit for convincing ACT for America to back away from “almost 70 anti-Muslim rallies it organized across the country” that were scheduled to be held Sept. 9.
“Our nation is at a pivotal turning point, where our very identity will be shaped by how we respond to the vicious waves of hate and bigotry coming at us,” said Madihha Ahussain, special counsel for anti-Muslim bigotry at Muslim Advocates.
“By removing its name from any events scheduled for September 9th, after galvanizing supporters and attendees in nearly 70 cities across the country, ACT is essentially acknowledging that these types of events cause and incite violence,” Ahussain added.
However, in a statement to PJM, ACT for America said Muslim Advocates’ demand regarding the group’s national convention in October was nothing but “an attempt to suppress the speech of those holding opposing views from theirs” and “is disappointing, since it is based on a series of outright fabrications.”
“By attempting to pressure the venue to cancel it through the distribution of outright lies, Muslim Advocates simply exposes itself as a dishonest political partisan on issues important to millions of Americans,” the ACT for America statement read. “We hope they reconsider their outrageous conduct if they wish to be taken seriously in these conversations of public interest.”
ACT for America’s statement also said the October convention, ACTCON2017, would be the group’s ninth annual national meeting “and has been held without incident of any kind throughout its history.”
“This year’s speakers include a Palestinian Muslim, a LGBT daughter of holocaust survivors, a Native American, and an Arabic Christian. It is emceed by a LGBT man. This diversity is something of which we are proud, and it points to the fundamental deceit in Muslim Advocates statement,” ACT for America said.
As justification for its charges, Muslim Advocates cited the Southern Poverty Law Center, which accused ACT for America of becoming the “largest grassroots anti-Muslim group in America, claiming 280,000 members and over 1,000 chapters.”
ACT for America described itself as being the “NRA of national security” and “committed to recruiting, training, and mobilizing citizens community by community to help protect and preserve American culture and to keep this nation safe.”
ACT for America, founded in 2007 by Brigitte Gabriel, actively lobbies for legislation at the state and federal levels that it sees as critical to those goals. The group takes credit for successful passage of 84 bills in 32 states, as well as helping to win approval for 12 bills in the 111th through 114th Congress.
Scott Simpson, in his letter to Sorenson, wrote that ACT for America has also held almost 30 “March Against Sharia” protests during Ramadan and “some of the protesters were armed and marched directly in front of mosques.”
The Texas Observer reported that close to 50 people, one waving a Confederate flag, took part in the “March Against Sharia” on June 10 at the Texas Capitol in Austin. The March Against Sharia demonstration was surrounded by “about 300 counter-protesters, many of them masked ‘anti-fascist’ activists…some wielding sticks, axe handles and shields.”
In Harrisburg, Pa., that day, a woman described by police as being with a group of antifa protesters who showed up at the ACT For America “March Against Sharia” was accused of stabbing a police horse with a flagpole. Lisa Simon’s defense attorney says her client acted defensively as an officer push against the crowd with his horse.
Muslim Advocates did not respond to a PJM request for information on whether it planned any further action against Marriott International, or whether any demonstrations might be planned for the ACT for America convention in Virginia on Oct. 2-3.