Top US Muslim group CAIR cancels Virginia banquet following bomb, death threats

Top US Muslim group CAIR cancels Virginia banquet following bomb, death threats
The death threats targeting the CAIR have been linked to the Muslim civil rights group's concern for Palestinians amid Israel's war on Gaza.
3 min read
CAIR will now move its banquet to an undisclosed location amid threats on the top Muslim grop [Getty]

A national Muslim civil rights group said on Thursday it is moving its annual banquet out of a Virginia hotel that received bomb and death threats possibly linked to the group's concern for Palestinians amid Israel's relentless war on Gaza.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, canceled plans to hold its 29th annual banquet on Saturday at the Marriott Crystal Gateway in Arlington, just across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C. The group, who has used the hotel for a decade, it will move the banquet to an undisclosed location with heightened security, the group's statement said.

"In recent days, according to the Marriott, anonymous callers have threatened to plant bombs in the hotel’s parking garage, kill specific hotel staff in their homes, and storm the hotel in a repeat of the January 6th attack on the US Capitol if the events moved forward," the statement said.

Arlington police said in an email that the department was investigating a Thursday morning report from the hotel that it received anonymous phone calls, "some referencing threats to bomb," regarding the CAIR event.

Emails seeking comment from the FBI, which CAIR said also is investigating, and the Marriott hotel chain were not immediately answered late Thursday night.

A separate banquet planned for October 28 in Maryland also was cancelled and will be merged with Saturday's event, CAIR said.

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The threats came after CAIR updated banquet programming to focus on human rights issues for Palestinians. The group has started an online campaign urging members of Congress to promote a ceasefire in Gaza, which has been indiscriminately bombarded by Israel for 14 consecutive days, in a retaliation for a surprise cross-birder attack carried out by Hamas on October 7.

Israeli strikes have killed at least 4,137 people in the besieged Gaza Strip, and wounding 13,000 more. Half of the densely-populated enclave's residents are also displaced, amid an evacuation order imposed by Israel.

"We strongly condemn the extreme and disgusting threats against our organisation, the Marriott hotel and its staff," CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad, who is Palestinian American, said in a statement. "We will not allow the threats of anti-Palestinian racists and anti-Muslim bigots who seek to dehumanise the Palestinian people and silence American Muslims to stop us from pursuing justice for all."

There have been concerns that Israel's war on Gaza will inspire hate crimes and violence in the US against Muslim, Jewish and minority communities. Last week, 6-year-old Palestinian-American Wadea Al-Fayoume was stabbed to death in his home in Chicago suburb by will take place on Monday in a Chicago suburb after he was stabbed to death over the weekend by a man who a 71-year-old man charged with first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder, two counts of hate crime and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon. 

Police in major cities increased patrols, authorities put up fencing around the US Capitol and some schools closed.