National civil rights group calls on Forest to withdraw from event featuring anti-Muslim speakers

National civil rights group calls on Forest to withdraw from event featuring anti-Muslim speakers

Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is calling on North Carolina Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest to withdraw from headlining an event featuring several controversial anti-Islamic speakers.

Forest’s top-billing at such an event sends a dangerous message, said CAIR Government Affairs Director Robert McCaw.

“By sharing the stage with anti-Muslim speakers, the lieutenant governor would legitimize the bigoted views espoused by the speakers and delegitimize the Republican Party’s claim of supporting religious freedom for all,” McCaw said. “Lieutenant Governor Forest should immediately withdraw from this event and reaffirm his commitment to representing all North Carolinians regardless of faith or background.”

The group, which bills itself as the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, is responding to Forest’s planned speech to the The American Renewal Project’s “North Carolina Renewal Project” event. The event takes place next week, Oct. 3-4, at the Renaissance Charlotte Suites Hotel.

Forest has not responded to requests for comment from Policy Watch.

The Renaissance Charlotte Suites Hotel and its corporate parent, Marriott International, said in a statement Thursday it strives to provide a welcoming environment to all.

“Acceptance of business does not indicate support, or endorsement of any group or individual. Our hotel management and staff do not necessarily endorse the views and practices of our guests and those who attend meetings or events at our facilities,” said Tim Peters, general manager of the Renaissance Charlotte Suites Hotel.

Policy Watch first reported on the event and the group behind it earlier this month.

In a press release Tuesday, CAIR outlined its objections.

“Other scheduled speakers include William Federer, who spreads Islamophobic conspiracy theories about an alleged Islamic takeover of Europe and the United States, and E.W. Williams who, after the election of two Muslim women to Congress, stated, ‘The floor of Congress is now going to look like an Islamic republic,’” the group wrote.

In interviews, Federer has warned of an eventual Islamic

CAIR Government Affairs Director Robert McCaw

takeover of Europe and the U.S. of which he said the LGBTQ rights movement is a first step.

“The whole atheist-homosexual-gay-agenda movement, that’s a temporary thing,” Federer said. “That’s simply a detaching phase to get us away from our past to move into an Islamic future.”

In starkly religious and racial terms, Federer warned of the United States following what he sees as a pattern of Europeans being out-bred, outnumbered and victimized by Muslims in Europe.

“Ten years ago there were three mosques in Germany, today there’s over 200,” Federer said.

“The number one name for newborns in London, Milan, Brussels is Mohammad. The number one crime in Norway, Sweden and Denmark is rape – Muslim immigrant men raping European women. In other words Europe went from a Judeo-Christian past and then they backslid into a secular neutral and now they’re having an Islamic future.”

Ibrahim Hooper, national communications director for CAIR, said such comments – once regarded as limited to the political fringe – have sadly become more mainstream in American politics.

“Unfortunately with the election of Donald Trump we’ve seen the empowerment of white supremacy, xenophobia, Islamophobia and anti-immigrant extremism around the country,” Hooper said. “That includes among lower level public officials who perhaps had these beliefs in the past but kept them private.”

Muslim rights activists in North Carolina are also pushing back this week after the U.S. Education Department ordered the Duke-UNC Consortium for Middle East Studies to revise its curriculum, saying it is advancing “ideological priorities” and promoting “the positive aspects of Islam” and is in danger of losing its federal grant funding.

Anti-Islamic sentiment from the federal to the local level is a very real danger for Muslims, Hooper said.

Earlier this summer a Safe Home study based on FBI hate crime data showed reported hate crimes in North Carolina rose 64 percent from 2013-2017.

That’s significantly more than the national rise of 22 percent.

Of religion-related crimes, Jewish people were the most targeted at 58 percent. Muslims were the next highest category with 19 percent.

“Public officials should not share a platform with bigots of any kind.”

Ibrahim Hooper, national communications director for CAIR

Elected officials like Forest should think carefully about what association with groups promoting anti-Islamic rhetoric means to those who elect them, Hooper said.

“Public officials should not share a platform with bigots of any kind – whether it’s Islamophobes, xenophobes or white surpemacists,” Hooper said. “They should be shunned and not elevated by being associated with a public official.”

In the last two weeks, groups like Equality NC and a number of North Carolina lawmakers have spoken up to say they agree.

“Whether you’re the governor or the lieutenant governor, whether you’re a Senate Democrat or Senate Republican, I think we all need to be mindful about what events and organizations we’re associated with,” said state Sen. Jay Chaudhuri, a Raleigh Democrat.

“In instances where you have organizations that are anti-LGBTQ or anti-Muslim, we have to be careful about the optics of appearing at those events,” Chaudhuri said. “In some cases these are the same organizations that are pushing a legislative agenda that is against North Carolina as a place that is inclusive and welcoming.”

Rep. Cecil Brockman (D-Guilford) said Forest often talks about bringing people in North Carolina together — but speaking to groups such as this makes that talk seem hollow.

“By addressing this group he clearly doesn’t mean all people,” Brockman said. “If he cares about being inclusive of all North Carolinians, he should have the courage to condemn the hateful ideology of groups like this.”