A Florida hotel cancels a Muslim conference, citing security concerns after receiving protest calls

Jan 12, 2024, 2:25 PM | Updated: 9:28 pm

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — A South Florida Marriott Hotel canceled a Muslim group’s conference at the last minute after a protest group claimed the coalition was promoting Hamas, terrorism and antisemitism.

The South Florida Muslim Federation, a coalition of about 30 mosques and Islamic groups, said Friday that it was told by the Marriott Coral Springs Hotel and Convention Center that its conference was being canceled because of security concerns after it received 100 calls demanding it bar the group. This weekend’s second annual conference was expected to draw more than a thousand people.

Hotels in Arizona and Virginia have also canceled Muslim conferences since the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas in Israel, which sparked Israel’s invasion of the Gaza Strip and the ongoing war. Florida has also barred a pro-Palestinian student group from public universities.

Marriott’s decision “came out of nowhere and was a shock to the entire South Florida Muslim community,” federation President Samir Kakli said. He said numerous Muslim groups and families have held large conferences, weddings and other events at the Coral Springs Marriott without incident.

Kakli said that even before Marriott raised security concerns, his group hired Coral Springs police officers and private guards for protection. He said he told Marriott that the federation would hire more, but was rebuffed.

The hotel is just west of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and Kakli said hotel management raised the specter of the shooting at the Parkland campus that killed 17 six years ago.

“They said it just takes one person like what happened in Parkland,” Kakli said. He said the group is looking to have the conference soon at an alternate venue.

“We are going to stand up and keep doing the work we have been doing, which is to practice our right to freedom of religion and gather as a community with our peaceful, family events,” he said.

The Coral Springs Police Department said Friday that while it had no knowledge of threats, it expressed concerns about conference security during a meeting with Marriott officials.

“Due to the current political climate, it was our recommendation to completely secure the hotel to provide for a safe event, which would take a tremendous amount of resources based on previous experience,” the department said in a statement. “Due to the resources required, we would not be able to guarantee that every position recommended could be staffed for the 36 hours of coverage. Ultimately, it was the Marriott’s decision to cancel.”

Neither the Coral Springs Marriott nor the hotel chain’s corporate offices returned phone and email messages Friday seeking comment.

Joe Kaufman, who organized the protest against the conference, accused Kakli and groups that are part of his coalition of supporting terrorism, including the Hamas attack. He said some of the conference’s planned speakers have made antisemitic comments and called for the destruction of Israel.

Kaufman, a longtime protestor against some Islamic groups, insisted he has nothing against Muslims, just anyone he believes promotes antisemitism.

“Our concern is not just with the speakers. Our concern with the organization itself and its leadership,” Kaufman said Friday.

Kakli denied that he or his group supports terrorism or antisemitism. He said those accusations are often made against Muslims who criticize Israel, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government and its treatment of Gaza to strip them and their arguments of legitimacy.

“These are words that have been used by (Kaufman) for 15 years. They are anti-Muslim tropes that are no different than tropes that are used against other communities of color. They are shamelessly used to label our entire community as terrorists,” Kakli said.

Wilfredo Ruiz, spokesperson for the Council of American-Islamic Relations-Florida, said such attacks and Marriott’s decision to cancel the conference are part of a “holistic effort” in the state both by Gov. Ron DeSantis and private businesses to shut down criticism of Israel.

He pointed to the state’s recent barring of the group Students for Justice in Palestine from public university campuses and Florida hospitals firing Muslim doctors who expressed support for Palestinians.

“This is not the way we are supposed to live, where our speech is protected by our Constitution here in America. It’s like we are in a different country,” Ruiz said.

United States News

Associated Press

2 officers shot and killed a man who discharged a shotgun, police say

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — Two officers in New York shot and killed a man over the weekend, prompting authorities to launch an investigation and his family to demand answers. Edward Holmes, 58, was fatally shot Saturday morning in Buffalo after police say he discharged his shotgun and officers returned fire. Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia […]

20 minutes ago

Associated Press

A fellow student is charged with killing a Christian college wrestler in Kentucky

CAMPBELLSVILLE, Ky. (AP) — A college wrestler in Kentucky was killed by a fellow student at a private Christian university over the weekend, authorities said. Josiah Kilman, 18, was pronounced dead at a hospital after police officers were called early Saturday to Campbellsville University in central Kentucky, city police said in a news release. He […]

51 minutes ago

FILE - Republican National Committee chair Ronna McDaniel arrives on stage before House Minority Le...

Associated Press

RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel will leave post on March 8 as Trump moves to install new loyalists

NEW YORK (AP) — Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel will leave her post on March 8, having been forced out of the GOP’s national leadership as Donald Trump moves toward another presidential nomination and asserts control over the party. McDaniel announced her decision in a statement on Monday morning. “I have decided to step […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

Stock market today: Wall Street ticks lower ahead of another big batch of retail earnings

Wall Street pointed slightly lower early Monday ahead of a week that will be dominated by earnings reports from some of the nation’s biggest retailers. Futures for the S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average each ticked down about 0.1% before the bell. Earnings remain a big focus this week as a key indicator […]

6 hours ago

FILE - Bishop Lamor Miller-Whitehead speaks with the media, May 24, 2022, in New York. The Brooklyn...

Associated Press

Brooklyn preacher goes on trial for fraud charges prosecutors say fueled lavish lifestyle

NEW YORK (AP) — A Brooklyn preacher with ties to New York City Mayor Eric Adams is set to go on trial Monday in Manhattan federal court over charges that he looted a parishioner’s retirement savings and tried to extort a businessman to fuel his lavish lifestyle. Lamor Miller-Whitehead, 47, a Rolls Royce-driving bishop, faces […]

9 hours ago

FILE - Alexander Smirnov, second from right, leaves the courthouse on Feb. 20, 2024, in Las Vegas. ...

Associated Press

Ex-FBI informant charged with lying about Bidens will appear in court as judge weighs his detention

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A former FBI informant charged with fabricating a multimillion-dollar bribery scheme involving President Joe Biden’s family is set to appear in a California federal court on Monday as a judge considers whether he must remain behind bars while he awaits trial. Special counsel David Weiss’ office is pressing U.S. District Judge […]

9 hours ago

Sponsored Articles


DISC Desert Institute for Spine Care

Sciatica pain is treatable but surgery may be required

Sciatica pain is one of the most common ailments a person can face, and if not taken seriously, it could become one of the most harmful.


Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Day & Night is looking for the oldest AC in the Valley

Does your air conditioner make weird noises or a burning smell when it starts? If so, you may be due for an AC unit replacement.


Fiesta Bowl Foundation

The 51st annual Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade is excitingly upon us

The 51st annual Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade presented by Lerner & Rowe is upon us! The attraction honors Arizona and the history of the game.

A Florida hotel cancels a Muslim conference, citing security concerns after receiving protest calls