Interfaith Leaders Support Human Relations Commission Award for Muslim Leader

September 13, 2006

Nearly two dozen interfaith leaders, prominent activists and students joined MPAC Senior Advisor Dr. Maher Hathout Monday at the L.A. 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. Following public comments by an audience of more than 40 people, the 14-member Commission voted to postpone the decision on whether to uphold the decision to award Hathout to the next meeting Monday, September 18.

SEE: "Plans to Honor L.A. Muslim Leader Bring Out Animosity" (Los Angeles Times, 9/12/06)

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. Last week, three groups - the American Jewish Committee, the Zionist Organization of America and StandWithUs - also issued press releases joining the national smear campaign which claims that Hathout is an extremist masquerading as a moderate, a terrorist sympathizer, and a disloyal American.

SEE: "MPAC Calls Steve Emerson's Defamation of Mainstream Muslim American Leader 'Un-American''

Two dozen interfaith leaders participated in a press conference on Friday, September 8 to oppose the vicious character assassination they said appeared intent on excluding the much-needed voices of mainstream moderate Muslims in public discourse.

SEE: MPAC's Interfaith Press Conference Supporting HRC's Award of Maher Hathout

Additionally, the Commission has received a slew of letters, phone calls and emails from both supporters and opponents. MPAC calls on people of conscience to contact the Board of Supervisors and the LA County Commission on Human Relations to urge them to uphold their decision to honor Hathout for his vast contributions to inter-ethnic and inter-religious harmony in Los Angeles.

Founded in 1988, MPAC is a public service agency working for the civil rights of American Muslims, for the integration of Islam into American pluralism, and for a positive, constructive relationship between American Muslims and their representatives.


Contact the L.A. Board of Supervisors and the L.A. County Commission on Human Relations to support their selection of Dr. Maher Hathout to receive the prestigious John Buggs Award for excellence in human relations.

1st District -- Gloria Molina (213-974-4111 or
2nd District -- Yvonne B. Burke (213-974-2222 or
3rd District -- Zev Yaroslavsky (213-974-3333 or
4th District -- Don Knabe (213-974-4444 or
5th District -- Mike D. Antonovich (213-974-5555 or

Executive Director Robin Toma -
HRC President Adrian Dove -
Commissioner Rebecca Isaacs -
Commissioner Reverend Broadous -
Commissioner Susan Cumming -

Email Executive Director Robin Toma at with the Subject line "Please forward this to the Board of Supervisors & HR Commissioners". Please copy all emails to and


  • Dr. Maher Hathout has dedicated his life to the service of God and country, is an internationally renowned leader of moderate mainstream American Muslims. Throughout his career in public service, and in his books "In Pursuit of Justice: The Jurisprudence of Human Rights in Islam" and "Jihad vs. Terrorism", Hathout argues that Islam's opposition to oppression, terrorism, and tyranny is categorical and unwavering. Hathout is recognized by the vast majority of American Muslims as one of the founding fathers of American Muslim intellectual thought and tradition, and a leading advocate of nonviolence.
  • Hathout has worked for decades to argue for an American Muslim Identity and to foster Muslim involvement in all facets of American civic life, co-founded the first Muslim-Jewish and Muslim-Catholic Dialogues in Los Angeles in the early 1990s, he has taught classes at the University of Judaism, and sanctioned two interfaith pilgrimages with Muslims, Jews and Christians to religious sites in Jerusalem.
  • Among the numerous offices he holds, Hathout is a Charter Member of the Pacific Council on International Policy, the western partner of the Council on Foreign Relations, and sits on the Board of Directors of the Interfaith Alliance. Dr. Hathout has been invited to Capitol Hill and the State Department several times to address a variety of topics such as "Islam and U.S Policy," "Islamic Democracy," "Emerging Trends in Islamic Movements," and "the Future of the Middle East."
  • The false allegations launched by Steve Emerson, the American Jewish Committee, the Zionist Organization of America and StandWithUs are vicious and baseless. No where on the videotape that Emerson cites in his New Republic Online article or shown on Fox News does Hathout voice support for Hezbollah, Hamas or any other foreign group. In fact, Hathout (and MPAC) have repeatedly condemned terrorist acts committed by these groups and many others in the name of Islam and Muslims.
  • Throughout their written and oral diatribes, the vocal minority seeking to have the award rescinded display a shocking disregard to the cherished American values of democracy, including freedom of speech. Criticism of Israel does not justify the marginalization of any American voice. To do so is simply un-American.

[CONTACT: Edina Lekovic, 213-383-3443,]

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