January 3, 2015 After moving to Los Angeles in the late 1970s, Dr. Maher Hathout became a leading advocate for peace between Islam and other religions. But that work received a severe test in 2006, when his nomination for a prestigious humanitarian prize exposed fault lines that have long divided L.A.’s faith communities.
At a tense public meeting before a final vote on the award, critics blasted Hathout, the longtime chairman of the Islamic Center of Southern California, charging that disparaging remarks he had made about Israel proved he was unfit to be called a peacemaker. Countering the naysayers were equally ardent supporters, including Jewish and Christian leaders who told the Los Angeles County Human Relations Commission that Hathout’s interfaith leadership and his promotion of a moderate Islam made him perfect for the honor.
Photos of leaders, stars and other notable figures who died in 2014. ‘It felt like a showdown, the problems we see on the world stage playing out in that room,’ recalled Leonard Beerman, who died last month. Beerman was the founding rabbi of the Leo Baeck Temple and had become a confidant of Hathout.
In the end, though, several commission members abstained while others simply didn’t show up for the controversial vote, and Hathout was granted the John Allen Buggs award. Flanked by bodyguards, he called the moment a victory for free speech and accepted the award in the name of ‘Jews, Christians, Buddhists, atheists and Muslims’ who supported him.”
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The LA Times goes on to provide the following description of Dr. Hathout’s early years:
Hathout was born in Cairo on Jan. 1, 1936, and raised in Egypt. His views sprang partly from his youthful political activity. As a college student he protested vigorously against Egypt’s military rulers, ending up in jail during long stretches of the mid-1950s for criticizing a regime that many in his country felt was oppressive. Unbowed, he used the time in jail to begin refining a theology that wedded traditional Islam with a forward-looking, global outlook.
The Times appears to have done no serious research and/or investigation into Dr. Hathout’s background. In addition to his reported jailing during the mid 1950’s, comments by his son suggest that Dr. Hathout was also jailed in Egypt some time during 1965-1968 with both dates corresponding to major action by the Egyptian government against the Muslim Brotherhood. His second imprisonment and association with the Muslim Brotherhood is further supported by a short biography from a 1989 pamphlet which stated:
He has been actively involved in the Islamic movement since his student days and his quest for freedom and human right landed him in prison twice.
The term “Islamic Movement” is almost always used as a substitute for the Muslim Brotherhood. In addition, the GMBDW reported in 2009 on the death of Maher Hathout’s brother Hassan whose background was also strongly suggestive of membership in the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. Finally, a 1989 US Muslim Brotherhood document introduced as evidence in the Holy Land Foundation terrorism financing trial refers to “Hathout” in a list of “Islamic Centers and Groups in the field.”
Under Dr. Hathout’s stewardship, the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) was established originally in 1986 as the Political Action Committee of the Islamic Center of Southern California. MPAC has since developed into the political lobby arm of the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood and has opposed almost every counterterrorism action proposed or carried out by the U.S. government as well as engaging in virulent antisemitism, despite Dr. Hathout’s reputation for interfaith activities.
For a profile of MPAC, go here.