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Florida Tea Party Convention rescinds invitation to Muslim organization

Hassan Shibly of the Florida chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has been disinvited by organizers of the upcoming Florida Tea Party Convention. While tea party organizers say it was because CAIR “disrespected” one of its speakers, CAIR members say it was because an event organizer was called out for trying to shut down an upcoming CAIR convention while he was reaching out to the group.

Shibly and Nezar Hazme of CAIR’s Florida chapter tell The Florida Independent that an organizer of the convention, Geoff Ross, had invited Shibly to attend the convention after the group had expressed disappointment over the participation of Pamela Geller.

Geller is best known for her blog Atlas Shrugs, which has been described by The New York Times as a “site that attacks Islam with a rhetoric venomous enough that PayPal at one point branded it a hate site.” The attendance of Geller, and other anti-Islam activists, caught the attention of CAIR.

Ross says he wanted to offer the opportunity to have “both sides” air their views at the convention, and protect the group’s “First Amendment rights.”

However, around the time that Ross extended the invitation to CAIR, he also emailed catering staff at Jungle Island in Miami, asking them to decline to host a CAIR fundraising banquet set for Nov. 12.

This is the email that Ross sent to the vice president of food and beverage at the hotel where CAIR’s event will take place:

It has been brought to my attention that your facility will be hosting a fund raiser for the Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) on Saturday November 12th 2011.

I respectfully request that you cancel this event with CAIR. This is an organization that does not recognize the 1st Amendment of the US Constitution. It has tried numerous times to place political pressure on U.S. politicians by trying to stop them from speaking at various freedom loving Constitutional events across Florida and the United States. This attempt by CAIR to muzzle the 1st Amendment rights of American citizens cannot go unanswered.

Please be advised sir that your facility is now being boycotted and placed off limits by members of my Tea Party Coalition across the state of Florida. This boycott of your facility will be lifted when your event with CAIR is cancelled. Thank you.

Ross admits that he did try to orchestrate a tea party boycott of the hotel in an effort to have the event shut down. However, he claims that happened before he extended the invitation for CAIR to speak.

Shibly and Nezar both say it was immediately after.

“On Oct. 29, Ross sent me an invitation to speak at their event,” Shibly says. “On the very following day, Oct. 30, unbeknownst to me, he emailed the hotel asking them not to host our event.”

Upon hearing this news, Nezar confronted Ross. In an email to Ross, he wrote:

While I am encouraged by your invitation and your commitment to our Constitution, your hypocrisy is troubling. Below is an email you sent to Jungle Island requesting they cancel our event next weekend.

Please help me understand how we can possibly believe one word you tell us.

Ross says he emailed the hotel because he was frustrated with CAIR “putting political pressure on hotels” and trying “to shut down” events that are hosted by people they disagree with. “Sharia law is what they are using to shut us down,” he says.

“If they can’t handle what they dish out,” he says, “then they should pick other tactics.”

Ross claims the main reason he “kicked [CAIR] out of” the Tea Party Convention was because they “disrespected” Geller.

In an email to CAIR’s D.C. headquarters inviting the group to the event, Ross wrote:

Under the 1st Amendment of the US Constitution, The Counsel of American-Islamic Relations CAIR is very welcome to speak at our State Tea Party Convention in Daytona Beach this Sunday. The invitation stands. We will protect your rights to speak. We also have the right to protect the 1st Amendment rights of those people you disagree with. Ref: Ms. Pam Geller and Ms. Brigitte Gabriel.

**If CAIR chooses to place political pressure on facilities and hotels and to get these said facilities to disinvite speakers that CAIR disagrees with (Ref: Hutton Hotel Nashville) then you are interfering with the Constitutional rights of the American people. **This falls in line with Sharia Law. Companies that capitulate to your demands are actually capitulating to Sharia Law. [Emphasis mine.]

A communications person at CAIR D.C. took issue with the accusation that CAIR was responsible for Hutton Hotel severing its contract with an anti-Islam group.

The D.C. communications person responded to the email and asked, “What is your evidence that CAIR contacted the hotel in Nashville?” He added, “Please don’t cite Pam Geller’s unsubstantiated rantings.”

Ross told Sunshine State News that a “CAIR leader in Washington called Geller ‘a ranter’ and ‘a liar,” thus prompting him to disinvite CAIR.

Shibly later learned from a press release that he was no longer invited to the convention.

Ross says he has “never said anything negative about CAIR,” but was just “getting sick and tired of their tactics.”

Shibly tells the Independent that he is not surprised, but is very upset with what has happened. “Apparently free speech is only protected by the tea party if it means inciting hatred against Muslims,” he says. “Free speech used to expose such hatred is unacceptable to them.”

“It just amazes me that they claim to honor the Constitution and freedom of speech so much and criticize us for ‘infringing’ on free speech,” Shibly says, “and yet they do the exact same thing.”

The Tea Party Convention will take place at the Volusia County Ocean Center Nov. 4-6. According to the convention’s website, sponsors of the event include Freedom Works, the Heritage Foundation, Americans for Prosperity, Craig Miller’s U.S. Senate Campaign and the Oath Keepers.

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