The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), America’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organisation, has faced a distressing setback as the hotel scheduled to host its 29th annual banquet cancelled the event after a series of terror threats.

The banquet, scheduled for Saturday 21 October 2023 at the Marriott Crystal Gateway in Arlington, Virginia, has been a yearly tradition for over a decade.

CAIR had also planned a separate banquet at a Westin hotel in Maryland on 28 October.

Threats of bombs and harm to staff

The Marriott received threats from anonymous callers in the days prior to the scheduled event. Threats included the planting of bombs in the hotel’s parking garage, harm to hotel staff in their homes and a potential attack on the hotel, mirroring the violent events of 6 January 2021 at the US Capitol.

Owing to the gravity and specificity of these threats, along with an inability to secure additional security from local law enforcement agencies, CAIR and the Marriott decided that it was impossible to proceed with the events safely.

The US authorities have been alerted to the terror threats and the FBI is investigating.

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By GlobalData

Alternative location secured with heightened security

Despite these challenges, CAIR is determined to move forward with its annual event and has secured an alternative location with significant security measures in place. The new location will be announced shortly.

As an additional precaution, the event originally scheduled for 28 October 2023 in Maryland has been cancelled and merged into the delayed 21 October event.

CAIR’s stance on the threats

The terror threats emerged after CAIR updated its banquet programming to focus on the support needed for Palestinian human rights. CAIR national executive director Nihad Awad, a Palestinian-American, stated:

“We strongly condemn the extreme and disgusting threats against our organisation, the Marriott Hotel and its staff. We will not allow the threats of anti-Palestinian racists and anti-Muslim bigots to deter us from pursuing justice for all. We plan to move forward with our annual events merged at an alternate location with significant security and broadcast it to the entire nation.”

Awad also called on those who value free speech, human rights and justice to support CAIR’s work, showing that hate-filled extremists will not silence them but instead strengthen their voices.