Support Human Relations Award for Muslim Leader
Los Angeles, CA: Nearly two dozen interfaith
leaders, prominent activists and students joined MPAC Senior
Advisor Dr. Maher Hathout Monday at the LA County Commission
on Human Relations meeting to support their decision to
present Hathout with the prestigious John Allen Buggs Award
for excellence in human relations.
Among the religious prominent leaders who offered moving
accounts of their work with Hathout, and issued calls for
the Commission to see through opposition to Hathout receiving
the award, were Rabbi Leonard Beerman, Rabbi Steve Jacobs,
Rev. George Regas, Rev. Ed Bacon, Rev. Dr. Gwynne Guibord,
and Fr. Ernesto Medina. Well known community leaders --
including civil rights attorney Constance Rice, actor/activist
Mike Farrell (M*A*S*H), Shakeel Syed (Islamic Shura Council
of Southern California), a spokesman for LA Sheriff Lee
Baca representatives from the Progressive Jewish Alliance,
Nikkei for Civil Rights and Redress, and Women in Black
-- also testified to his rich, decades-long track record
in building coalitions and forging dialogues among diverse
segments of the Los Angeles religious and civic communities.
Rev. James M. Lawson Jr., a civil rights leader and president
of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Greater
Los Angeles submitted a letter to the Commission, in which
he urged them to reject what he called "extremism which
seeks to vilify Dr. Hathout's name and character."
He praised Dr. Hathout as "a person of immeasurable
integrity and honesty" who "reflects the best
not only of the Muslim faith, but the finest of any faith."
Actor Mike Farrell also lent his voice to a series of 60-second
radio ads in Los Angeles calling for voice of courage and
conscience to support the inclusion of the Muslim community
in the diversity of the region. Hathout also sent a letter
to the Board of Supervisors in which he said of the false
characterizations of him as a "Hezbollah apologist"
that he "never supported any organization that practices
terrorism." Even in the distorted quotes presented
by Steve Emerson, and in the selected video distributed
by him, "he failed to show that I support Hamas or
Hezbollah, or for that matter, any foreign group. I do not,
nor have I ever, supported these groups. In reality, I have
repeatedly condemned their terrorist actions."
The meeting came two weeks after self-proclaimed terrorism
analyst Steve Emerson published an article in the New Republic
Online and appeared on several Fox News Channel programs
falsely accusing Hathout of being a "Hezbollah apologist"
and calling on the Commission to rescind the award.
Two dozen interfaith leaders participated in a press conference
on Friday to oppose the vicious character assassination
they said appeared intent on excluding the much-needed voices
of mainstream moderate Muslims in public discourse.
A statement issued by Mr Ahmed Ali, Past President of the
Council Of Pakistan American Affairs (COPAA), at the press
conference said: “… Ever since that day (9/11)
five years ago, there have been voices of toleration and
peace within our religion who have shown us the meaning
of what Islam really is and that Islam truly is compatible
with American beliefs and ideals. Dr. Hathout has been in
the forefront of that struggle, going above and beyond to
reach out to Christians and Jews alike. He has been a tireless
servant who is without exception a voice of peace and moderation.
I can think of no better person to receive the John Buggs
award for excellence in human relations than Dr. Hathout….”