Not wanting to court danger, the Boca West Country Club has refused to host the Palm Beach Republican Party's "Lobsterfest" dinner that advertised controversial Islamic critic Geert Wilders as the keynote speaker. Geert was part of the Garland, Texas, cartoon contest that invited participants to draw the Prophet Muhammad. Islamic law prohibits any image of the prophet to ward off idol worship.
However, extremists have violently attacked or threatened with death anyone who has published a drawing or depiction of Muhammad over the years. The belief was what prompted extremists to attack the headquarters of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, where 12 staffers were gunned down.
Last week in Texas, in an attempt to fly directly in the face of that law, organizers put together a $10,000 Muhammad cartoon contest. The contest drew the attention of two gunmen who tried to kill participants with assault rifles. Police were able to thwart the attack and shot and killed the suspects. Not long after, ISIS announced that it was responsible for the attack.
As New Times reported on Thursday, Geert, a Dutch politician and known Islamic critic, was a key participant in the contest. Geert has been outspoken against the Qur'an, liking it to Mein Kampf and trying to have it banned in the Netherlands. His stance and beliefs have made him popular with the far-right, particularly in the United States. It's also made him a target of Islamic extremists.
In his speech in Texas, Geert continued his tirade on Islam. And the attention caught the eye of the Palm Beach County Republican Party, which scheduled an August $125-a-plate dinner featuring him as keynote speaker.
Supporters of the Texas contest have lauded Geert and contest organizer Pamela Geller as champions of free speech, while critics say they incite anti-Muslim sentiments.
On Wednesday night, Geller appeared on Fox News' Sean Hannity's show and faced off with an extremist Muslim cleric who said Geller should be put on trial. Hannity screamed at the cleric that he wants to kill Geller. The segment went on for ten minutes with all parties shouting at each other.
It's this kind of rhetoric, coupled with the events in Garland, that have moved the event to be canceled.
Boca West Country Club's chairman of the board, Bob Locke, said they didn't know who Geert was before accepting the reservation to host the event. But once they realized who Geert is and about his ties with the Muhammad drawing contest, the country club cited safety reasons for the cancellation.
“At the time the reservation for the dinner was made, no one in management or in the catering department at Boca West knew the identity of the keynote speaker,” he said per the Palm Beach Post. “Due to potential safety concerns associated with Mr. Wilders’ appearance, we have elected to cancel the reservation for this private event.”
The Palm Beach Republican Party has yet to make a statement or announce if the event will be rescheduled at another venue.