Interfaith Leaders 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….”



Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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