Nashville Hotel Drops Jihad Conference Over Safety Concerns

Christina E. Sanchez, The Tennessean, May 30, 2009

Loews Vanderbilt Hotel turned away a symposium it had booked for this weekend that would have featured a controversial Dutch politician and filmmaker, citing concerns about safety if the event were allowed to happen.

A group called New English Review planned to hold a two-day conference on “Understanding the Jihad in Israel, Europe and America,” and had signed a contract in January to use the prominent West End Avenue hotel.

“We canceled the group for both the safety and the health of our guests and employees here at Vanderbilt hotel,” said Tom Negri, managing director of Loews Vanderbilt.

Negri is known in the Nashville community for his involvement in the group Nashville for All of Us, which helped defeat the English-only measure this year.

Negri would not say why he believed there could be a safety issue if the group appeared at the hotel, nor if the scheduled appearance by Geert Wilders played a part.

Wilders, a Dutch politician whose 15-minute film, Fitna, has been called insulting to Muslims, was to be the keynote speaker. The film, which challenges radical Islam, got him banned from ever entering Great Britain.

Rebecca Bynum, listed on the group’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.

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She 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 group’s Web site lists a Nashville mailing address, but it does not include a description of the group’s purpose or mission. The World Encounter Institute, a nonprofit organization that funds the Review site and symposium, said it aims to protect the values of Western civilization.

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

Negri wouldn’t say whether Loews had ever canceled a symposium or similar event in the past.

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