By Moshe Phillips and Benyamin Korn
A Muslim-American leader whose record includes calling President Bill Clinton a terrorist, praising Hezbollah, and opposing Israel’s existence, is being described by the U.S. news media as an opponent of terrorism and promoter of Muslim-Jewish friendship.
Maher Hathout, who passed away in Los Angeles earlier this month, was a founder of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, leader of the Islamic Center of Southern California, and a prominent figure in many other U.S. Muslim groups and causes — in short, he had been one of the most important Muslim American leaders for more than thirty years. As such, the statements he made over the years took on special significance. He spoke for a large segment of the U.S. Muslim community, and he was never challenged by his coreligionists over the positions he took.
What were some of those positions?
According to the obituary of Hathout circulated by the Associated Press, he was “deeply patriotic.” If so, he sure had a funny way of showing it. Consider his view of Hezbollah, the terrorist group that slaughtered 241 U.S. Marines in Lebanon in 1983: “Hezbollah is fighting only for freedom,” Hathout declared in the Los Angeles Times on November 30, 1998.
Evidently nobody at the L.A. Times checked their own files when composing their obituary of Hathout. Completely ignoring Hathout’s view of Hezbollah, the Times reported that he worked to “undermine Islamic justification for terrorism” and promoted “a theology that wedded traditional Islam with a forward-looking, global outlook.” He fought for “social justice,” and he was “a leading advocate for peace between Islam and other religions.” The only time he stirred controversy, according to the Times, was over “disparaging remarks he had made about Israel.”
“Disparaging remarks” ? Actually, Hathout opposed Israel’s very existence. On September 17, 1993, the Islamic Center of Southern California (which he headed) and the Muslim Public Affairs Council (which he founded and was still a major figure in) signed a public statement declaring that “the establishment by force, violence, and terrorism of a Jewish state in Palestine in 1948” was “unjust” and “a crime.” They pledged to “work to overturn the injustice.”
The Los Angeles outlet of ABC-TV, in its report on Hathout’s passing, asserted that he “spoke against spoke against corrupt ideology and extremism.” In fact he repeatedly made extremist statements against Jews, against Israel, and against anti-terror action by the United States.
Speaking at California State University-Fullerton on May 6, 2001, Hathouht declared that “the United States is also under Israeli occupation.” When Pat Buchanan, Mearsheimer & Walt, and others have made similar statements, they have been characterized by major Jewish organizations as anti-Semitic.
When President Bill Clinton took action against terrorists in Sudan and Afghanistan in 1998, here is how the moderate, patriotic, anti-terrorist Hathout responded: “Our country is committing an act of terrorism. What we did is illegal, immoral, unhuman [sic], unacceptable, stupid and un-American. If our country commits hate crimes, we should not expect the uneducated to do the same.” The statement appeared in the Los Angeles Times on August 22, 1998. For some reason, it did not make its way into the Times’ recent obituary of Hathout.
Nor did any of the obituaries mention the comment Hathout made about Palestinian terrorists, during a panel discussion on Capitol Hill on June 18, 1998: “The only thing they can do is throw a bomb in a market or send somebody to suicide, we don’t have enough ability to target real targets in Israel.”
And don’t forget about The Minaret. That’s the official publication of Hathout’s Islamic Center, and he and his brother, Hassan, are two of the six members of the editorial board. Some choice editorials in the Minaret over the years included one praising French Holocaust-denier Roger Garaudy, and one declaring that “supporters of Israel have created a quiet reign of terror in the U.S. People cannot speak loudly against the apartheid policies of Israel.” Those are just small samples of the volumes of hatred that have filled The Minaret’s pages over the years.
“Patriotic” ? “Forward-looking” ? An “advocate for peace” ? Maher Hathouht’s own words say otherwise. He should have been ostracized and denounced by American Muslims for his extremist and pro-terrorism statements. The fact that he was enthusiastically supported is deeply troubling.
(The authors are president and chairman, respectively, of the Religious Zionists of America, Philadelphia, and candidates on the Religious Zionist Slate (www.VoteTorah.org) in the World Zionist Congress elections that are now underway.)