Major US Muslim group moves annual gala after threats at Virginia hotel

ARLINGTON, Virginia (Reuters) -A major U.S. Muslim civil rights group has moved an annual banquet scheduled for Saturday to an undisclosed location after a Virginia hotel canceled the event because of threats.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said the Marriott Crystal Gateway hotel in Arlington, Virginia, which has hosted its gathering for more than 10 years, received the threats.

“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 Jan. 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol if the events moved forward,” CAIR said in a statement on Thursday night.

The group said it would proceed with the banquet on Saturday at an alternate, secured location.

A representative for the hotel was not immediately available to comment.

The move came a day after the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, a second advocacy group, said the Hilton hotel in Houston had abruptly canceled its booking to hold its annual conference at the venue on Oct. 27-29.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott praised Hilton’s decision in a post on X, formerly Twitter, writing, “Texas has no room for hate & antisemitism.”

“The Governor’s rhetoric, and actions by the hotel echo and inflame the sharp increase in hate incidents that are targeting Arabs,” the group said in an X post, citing the recent murder of a 6-year-old Muslim boy in Illinois in what police said was a bias-motivated crime.

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said on Thursday that the Justice Department is monitoring an increase in reported threats against Jewish, Muslim and Arab communities in the United States tied to Israel’s war with Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

President Joe Biden called on Americans to denounce Islamophobia and antisemitism in an Oval Office address Thursday night. “You’re all America,” he said.

(Reporting by Doina Chiacu in Washington; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)