By Ben Bradley, ABC 7 Reporter
A suburban banquet hall said threats of protests led it to cancel an Islamic conference that was planned for the weekend.
The U.S. branch of the international Hizb ut-Tahrir movement was scheduled to meet at the Meadows Club in Rolling Meadows. They still plan to meet on June 17, but have not said where.
Protests have dogged Hizb ut-Tahrir meetings in the past and members of Congress have publicly declared it a terrorist organization- even though U.S. law enforcement has not.
A slickly produced video promoting a recent Hizb ut-Tahrir conference called on people to “be part of the revival.” It declared the “fall of capitalism” and “rise of Islam.”
And that was enough to raise some high level alarm bells.
“There are radical Islamists right here in our district who every day are plotting to kill Americans. We need to be alert to that. And when they trying to do things overtly or publicly, we [have] got to call them on it,” Rep. Joe Walsh (R) said.
“This is subversion. This isn’t protected speech. And so I ask you, why in the world hasn’t the Obama Administration shut this conference down next week!” Congresswoman Michelle Bachman, (R) Minnesota, said last week. Bachman labeled the Islamic group slated to meet at this Rolling Meadows banquet a “terrorist organization.”
Web sites then stoked the outrage.
“This would be like having the Nazi’s meet in New York,” Robert Spencer of Jihadiwatch.org said. “Anyone who is interested in human rights, human dignity should oppose it.”
There were demonstrations outside a similar event in 2009 in suburban Oak Lawn.
Experts say the group Hizb ut-Tahrir’s goal is to install one person to lead the Muslim world dominated by strict Sharia law. A spokesman for the movement told ABC7 news partner the Daily Herald, “The call is not to bring that here to this country or anything of that sort& The message is for Muslim countries to return to Islamic values.”
“They’re a very marginalized group, a very fringe group that most Muslim-Americans don’t agree with,” Aymen Abdel Halim, of CAIR-Chicago said.
Still, hundreds of calls and emails — some of them vicious — flooded the Meadows Club banquet facility. Concern grew that the Father’s Day gathering would draw protests and distract from other weekend events there, including an Islamic wedding.
“We are after all a small business. There are a lot of community-based events which happen here. He said, ‘I don’t want to inconvenience you.’ He was very graceful about it,” MadanKulharni, Meadows Club CEO, said.
Representatives of Hizb ut-Tahrir did not return ABC7’s calls and emails requesting comment, but the banquet hall manager said the group was very understanding about cancelling the gathering. Their website says they’ve secured a new location in the Chicago-area, but won’t announce it until closer to the June 17th meeting date.