America’s largest anti-Muslim hate group emailed its members Tuesday with a very special offer.
“Make no mistake about it,” the email from Act for America said. “This is a can’t miss event! But space is limited and our Early Bird rate won’t last long!”
That’s right, for only $299 you too can attend the Act for America 10th annual anniversary conference. Hear so-called “national security experts” weave fantastical and hateful conspiracy theories about American Muslims. Chat about protecting so-called Judeo-Christian culture from jihad at the fancy dinner gala. Who knows ― maybe a congressman or two will show up!
It’s all going down at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City in Arlington, Virginia on Sept. 4-5. And the hotel says it is obliged to host the group.
“The hotel does not unlawfully discriminate against groups who wish to hold lawful meetings at the hotel,” Derrick Morrow, area vice president and general manager at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City, told HuffPost in an emailed statement.
“The views and opinions expressed by hotel guests or groups do not necessarily reflect those of the hotel, its owners or colleagues.”
Act for America, which boasts an exaggerated membership of 750,000 people, calls itself the “NRA of national security” and the “nation’s largest nonprofit, non-partisan, grassroots national security organization” aimed at helping “protect and preserve American culture and to keep this nation safe.”
But both The Southern Poverty Law Center and The Anti-Defamation League, which track extremist groups, call Act for America the country’s “largest anti-Muslim group.” (SPLC also classifies Act for America as a “hate group.”)
“There must be no room for hate at Hyatt hotels,” Scott Simpson, public advocacy director at the legal advocacy group Muslim Advocates, told HuffPost in a statement. “Hyatt’s mission statement proudly and boldly states: ‘We embrace all cultures, races, ethnicities, genders, sexual orientations, ages, abilities, perspectives, and ways of thinking.’ Yet, the company’s decision to host ACT for America– the largest anti-Muslim hate group in America – is antithetical to these stated values and the ideals of our nation.”
“We urge all Hyatt employees and potential guests to be aware that their hotel will be a hostile environment during this convention,” Simpson added.
Last September, Simpson and Muslim Advocates wrote a letter to Marriott International President and CEO Arne Sorenson asking that the hotel chain not host Act for America’s 2017 conference at the Marriott Crystal Gateway, also in Arlington. Other groups, including the Council on American-Islamic Relations, also publicly put pressure on Marriott.
Marriott ultimately refused to cancel the Oct 2-3 gathering, offering up the same bland corporate legalese that Hyatt provided to HuffPost this week. “We are a hospitality company that provides public accommodations and function space,” a Marriott spokesman said at the time. “Acceptance of business does not indicate support or endorsement of any group or individual.”
An Act for America video from May 2017, announcing that year’s annual conference.
But hotels and venues have a history of canceling on extremist groups, often after pressure from anti-racist activists. In 2010, three Virginia hotels — the Washington Dulles Marriott, the Westin Washington Dulles Hotel and the Four Points by Sheraton Manassas Battlefield — canceled event contracts with the New Century Foundation, a suit-and-tie white supremacist group which publishes the racist and anti-Semitic magazine American Renaissance. (The New Century Foundation eventually held its conference at the Capitol Skyline Hotel in Washington.)
Aribnb refused to accommodate racists in Charlottesville, Virginia, during the deadly white supremacist rally there in August 2017. And in October of last year, the owners of a Maryland events venue called Rocklands Farm kicked members of the National Policy Institute off its property after realizing the group was the white supremacist organization headed by Richard Spencer.
Hyatt Hotels Corporation did not respond to a request for comment on whether it would host white supremacists or neo-Nazis at its hotels. Nor did it clarify what, if any, standards it has on which extremist groups are allowed at its hotels and which are not.
Simpson, of Muslim Advocates, said his group is “ currently looking into all options” regarding Hyatt’s decision to host Act for America. He said he remains “optimistic that any company that claims to value diversity, as Hyatt does, will not ultimately embrace such naked bigotry.”
Act for America was founded by Brigitte Gabriel, a Christian immigrant from Lebanon who has said that “every practicing Muslim is a radical Muslim,” that Muslims are a “natural threat to civilized people of the world, particularly Western society,” and that a “practicing Muslim, who believes in the teachings of the Quran, cannot be a loyal citizen to the United States of America.”
In 2007, Gabriel stood behind a Marriott-branded podium during a Christians United For Israel conference at one of the chain’s hotels in Washington and said that Arabs “have no soul.”
“The difference, my friends, between Israel and the Arab world is the difference between civilization and barbarism,” she said. “It’s the difference between goodness and evil. And this is what what we’re witnessing in the Arabic world, they have no soul! They are dead-set on killing and destruction.”
The crowd cheered.
Act for America has worked for years to spread fear of Muslims, helping promote the debunked conspiracy theory known as “creeping Sharia” — the bigoted idea that there’s a coordinated effort among Muslim Americans to subvert the U.S. Constitution and institute a brutal version of Sharia law in this country. Gabriel has also pushed the paranoid conspiracy theory that radicalized Muslims have infiltrated every level of government, including the CIA, FBI, Pentagon and Department of State.
“Escalating anti-Muslim hate crimes in recent years are undoubtedly related to the fears and suspicion raised by these and other conspiracy theories,” said Tamara Sonn, associate director of the Bridge Initiative at Georgetown University, a multi-year research project into Islamophobia.
“Hosting an organization that engages in such activities does not reflect well on the values of Hyatt Hotels Corporation,” she said.
In June 2017, during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, Act for America coordinated “March Against Sharia” protests across the country, events that attracted neo-Nazis, white supremacists and armed anti-government militia members.
Act for America did not respond to a request for comment.