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US hotel cancels "jihad" conference, cites safety
Associated Press
2009-05-31 04:37 AM
A Nashville hotel is citing safety concerns for turning away a conference booked for this weekend that featured a controversial Dutch politician and filmmaker who has criticized Islam in Europe.

A group called New English Review signed a contract in January to use the Loews Vanderbilt Hotel for a two-day conference called "Understanding the Jihad in Israel, Europe and America."

The Dutch politician Geert Wilders, whose 15-minute film, "Fitna," has been called insulting to Muslims, was to be the keynote speaker. The film challenges radical Islam and got Wilders banned from entering Britain.

The hotel's managing director, Tom Negri, told The Tennessean newspaper that it canceled the event for the safety and health of guests and employees, but he would not provide details about those concerns.

Rebecca Bynum, listed on the New English Review's Web site as publisher and a senior editor, said the hotel stated no actual threat was made against Loews for hosting the symposium.

"We find it interesting that even without a specific threat that the fear of violence is so great that they would decide to cancel our event," Bynum said.

The group's Web site had a statement that said, "Loews Vanderbilt Plaza Hotel succumbed to intimidation and canceled hosting our event."

Bynum said Loews knew the topic of the event and had talked with the group about the possibility of having security, though she and other members were not worried.

The New English Review's Web site lists a Nashville mailing address, but it does not include a description of the group's purpose or mission.

Bynum said the organization seeks "to raise awareness about the nature of the jihad and all its various instruments, which do not all necessarily involve violence." She declined to elaborate.

The symposium started Friday as scheduled, but at a venue revealed only to people registered to attend.

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