UPDATE: (12:10 p.m.)—Del. Nic Kipke (R-Pasadena), the newly elected chairman of Anne Arundel County's House delegation, is at odds with a Muslim group over his decision to attend a conservative political conference in Annapolis on Saturday.
The conference is called Turning the Tides 2013 and was created by Maryland's Conservative Action Network (MD CAN) as a networking and training workshop, according to its website.
The disagreement between Kipke and Maryland's chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is over Pamela Geller—one of the conference's keynote speakers.
"It's really upsetting because this person coming, Pamela Geller, she is just as out there and just as bigoted and racist as David Duke," said Saqib Ali, government relations director for CAIR-MD."It's just like if the Klan was coming to town and these legislators said 'we are going to go hang out with the KKK.'"
Ali, who is a former delegate from Montgomery County, has also called on Del. Neil Parrott (R-Hagerstown), Carroll County Commissioner Richard Rothschild and Frederick County Commissioner Blaine Young to rescind their invitation.
"She has strong views but on comparison they are no more controversial than that of someone on the left like Michael Moore," Kipke said. "Pamela Geller may say things that are politically incorrect but she's protected by the First Amendment."
Ali disagreed, saying that Geller's statements are often "beyond the pale." He and CAIR have organized a protest outside the DoubleTree Hotel in Annapolis in opposition to Saturday's conference.
Geller launched on the national stage in 2010 when she helped lead the charge against the building of a Muslim community center and mosque near ground zero, according to the New York Times.
She runs a group called
Stop the Islamization of America (SIOA), which is designated as a "hate group" by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
She's also responsible for a series of controversial ads running inside Washington DC's metro system, according to The Los Angeles Times.
The ad reads: "In any war between a civilized man and a savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad.’’
Kipke said he doesn't agree with everything Geller says.
"I'm speaking at the conference about health reform," Kipke said. "Obviously, this is an important topic, and I'm not going to miss an opportunity to discuss the topic to please an extremist group like CAIR."
Kipke said that CAIR has ties to organizations like Hamas and that some of its leadership have made anti-Semitic statements. A claim Geller also asserts on her website.
The Anti Defamation League—a Jewish advocacy group—also takes issue with CAIR. In a post on its website, the group voiced its concerns over the Muslim group's reported ties to Hamas and called its efforts to promote "justice and mutual understanding" tainted.
Ali disputes those claims, saying the ADL has come out against some of Geller's statements.
"It's really shameful that in 2013 in Maryland Nic Kipke and legislators like him think that this kind of bigotry is just fine," Ali said. "It is clear that there is a segment of their [Republican] party that is uncomfortable with modern pluralistic America."