Mar-a-Lago again under fire for hosting group that promoted Islamophobia

The Centre for Security Policy is holding a private event at Mar-a-Lago on Nov 23, according to Fred Fleitz, the group's president and chief executive.
The Centre for Security Policy is holding a private event at Mar-a-Lago on Nov 23, according to Fred Fleitz, the group's president and chief executive.PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK (NY TIMES) - For the second time in two weeks, the Trump Organisation faced calls to cancel a planned event at Mar-a-Lago, United States President Donald Trump's private club in Palm Beach, Florida, because the event was being organised by a group that has espoused anti-Muslim views.

The group, the Centre for Security Policy, is holding a private event at Mar-a-Lago on Nov 23, according to Mr Fred Fleitz, the group's president and chief executive. The centre has been designated as a hate group with anti-Muslim ideology by the Southern Poverty Law Centre.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations, a civil rights organisation also known as CAIR, called on Thursday (Oct 17) for the Trump Organisation to cancel the event. This month, the annual gala for an anti-Muslim organisation, ACT for America, which was slated to be held at Mar-a-Lago in November, was cancelled after news reports appeared about that event.

"The Trump Organisation made the right decision to cancel a previous event hosted by an anti-Muslim hate group, and we call them to do so again," Mr Robert McCaw, CAIR's director of government affairs, said in a statement on Thursday.

"The President of the United States should not profit from a group that makes its money by demonising an entire faith and whose founder traffics in widely debunked conspiracy theories," he said, "including that former president Obama is Muslim and that mosques want to destroy Western civilisation from within."

The Trump Organisation did not immediately respond to phone calls and e-mails seeking comment on Thursday evening. A woman who answered the phone at Mar-a-Lago said no one was available to speak to the news media.

Word of the centre's event at Mar-a-Lago surfaced on Thursday, the same day that Mr Trump chose the Trump National Doral resort near Miami to host the next Group of Seven meeting, raising questions about a conflict of interest.

On Thursday, Mr Fleitz of the Centre for Security Policy defended his organisation, a think tank based in Washington that is focused on national security.

He said that the criticisms lodged by CAIR were based on statements made by the centre's founder and former president, Mr Frank Gaffney. Mr Fleitz took over the centre in January, but Mr Gaffney remains its executive chairman, which Mr Fleitz said was "like an emeritus role." A radio show hosted by Mr Gaffney is featured on the organisation's website.


"He doesn't represent the centre," Mr Fleitz said. "He's not the president anymore. I'm the president. I set the agenda for the centre."

He added: "I think I've been very careful in trying to be respectful to everybody, no matter what their religion or race or ethnicity is.

"Muslim-Americans are an important part of our society, of the fabric of our society... They are doctors and lawyers, friends and neighbours. I don't want to see anyone discriminated against based on race, or religion or gender."

Mr Fleitz said he had not been contacted by the Trump Organisation after news surfaced on Thursday about the November event.

Mr Gaffney has promoted theories that the Muslim Brotherhood is infiltrating mosques and the US government, engaging in a "stealth jihad" to "Islamise" the country - views that he stood by when reached by telephone on Thursday evening.

He said many of his views could be found on the centre's website. Mr Fleitz said he had taken down some pages from the site, though he did not know specifically what Mr Gaffney was referring to. Mr Gaffney said he did not speak for the Centre for Security Policy anymore.