Written by Ryan Mauro
The Muslim Public Affairs Council’s choice of location for its 12th Annual Convention on December 15 is telling: The All Saints Episcopal Church of Pasadena, California. The group, founded by Muslim Brotherhood followers, says this is the “next step in its mission by crossing the interfaith line.” Yet again, the Islamists are taking advantage of naïve Christians with a desire to show off their tolerance.
The All Saints Episcopal Church of Pasadena started an Interfaith Study Group in 2007 with the Pasadena Jewish Temple and the Islamic Center of Southern California (ICSC), from which MPAC originated. The organization was founded as a branch of ICSC in 1986 and then became independent in 1988, though the two remain intertwined. The ICSC is proud of its interfaith successes. For example, the First United Methodist Church of Santa Monica is allowing the ICSC to hold Friday prayers there every week.
The story of MPAC begins with Hassan and Maher Hathout, the former of whom died in 2009. The brothers became active with the Muslim Brotherhood at an early age, with Hassan Hathout saying that its founder, Hassan al-Banna, is “the person who most influenced my life” and that “centuries might roll over before a similar personality is produced.” Maher Hathout was arrested in Egypt, where the Muslim Brotherhood was banned, and released in 1968. Three years later, they moved to Buffalo, New York and went to California to establish the ICSC in 1978.
Hassan Hathout says they sought to begin the “Islamic Movement” in the U.S., a term the Brotherhood uses to describe its ideology. In 1997, he predicted its success because “America needs Islam. If you look objectively you will see that this current civilization harbors in its body the seeds of its own destruction.” The language is very similar to that of a 1991 U.S. Muslim Brotherhood strategy document where it defines its “work in America as a kind of grand jihad in eliminating and destroying Western civilization from within.” Another U.S. Muslim Brotherhood document from 1989 from its Financial Committee refers to a person with the last name of Hathout as someone “in the field.”
Maher Hathout has served as a senior adviser to MPAC since its beginning at the ICSC in 1986 and is still a spokesman for the mosque. The ICSC recommends the work of Sheikh Yousef al-Qaradawi, a senior Brotherhood cleric that supports terrorism, Hamas and preaches a strategy of “gradualism” towards implementing Sharia Law. It also suggests a book on Islamic law called Fiqh-us-Sunnah authored by Brotherhood member Sayyid Saabiq under the guidance of Hassan al-Banna.
In 1998, Maher Hathout defended Hezbollah as “legitimate,” saying they are “fighting to liberate their land.” He also entertains 9/11 conspiracy theories suggesting that the U.S. government is lying about the identities of the hijackers. The current President of MPAC, Salam al-Marayati, likewise said in 1999 that Hezbollah engages in “legitimate resistance.” His immediate response to the 9/11 attacks were to point his finger at Israel.
MPAC’s former Political Director, Mahdi Bray, used to lead the Muslim American Society’s Freedom Foundation. The Muslim American Society is a Brotherhood front. He spoke in support of the Muslim Brotherhood in 2007 during a visit to Egypt. In March 2004, he condemned the killing of Hamas founder Ahmed Yassin as “state-sponsored terrorism.” In 2000, he stood on stage as Abdurrahman Alamoudi, who later was convicted on terrorism-related charges, publicly praised Hamas and Hezbollah. He joined the crowd in their displays of approval.
MPAC’s Policy and Programming Director, Edina Lekovic, was the editor of a Muslim student magazine in the 1990s called Al-Talib. In July 1999, it told Muslims to defend Osama Bin Laden when he’s called a “terrorist” because he’s a “freedom fighter.” By that time, Al-Qaeda had already declared war on the U.S. and bombed the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998. Al-Talib management also told readers to reject the “twentieth-century version of Islam in the West,” an Islamist theme. Lekovic’s name also appears on an issue from May 1999 alleging that the Holocaust was exaggerated.
In 2003, MPAC stood against the labeling of Hamas, Hezbollah and Palestinian Islamic Jihad as terrorist organizations. In March 2009, demonstrators at an MPAC-sponsored rally chanted in support of Hamas and the elimination of Israel. A policy paper from 2010 titled Building Bridges to Strengthen America treats the Muslim Brotherhood favorably, calling it a “conservative” group that can help the U.S. combat terrorism.
MPAC’s initial reaction to the recent fighting between Israel and Hamas was to accuse Israel of “assassination of Palestinian leaders, destruction of Gazan infrastructure and the gross killings of Palestinian civilians, including women and children.” The statement did not condemn Hamas. Instead, it legitimized the terrorist group by saying Israel is guilty of the “greatest act of violence” and is responsible for the ongoing conflict.
On November 24, MPAC changed its tune a bit in a joint statement with the Abrahamic Faiths Peacemaking Initiative that called on both Israel and Hamas to end their attacks. It said, “There is no excuse for the indiscriminate firing of rockets onto civilians, nor terrorism.”
MPAC explains that the holding of its convention at the All Saints Episcopal Church of Pasadena is a reflection of its focus on winning allies among other faiths. It boasts of establishing partnerships with the National Association of Evangelicals, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, the Catholic Archdiocese, the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the Union of Reform Judaism and other faith groups. MPAC and similar groups like the Islamic Society of North America have created an interfaith bloc willing to defend them against Rep. Michele Bachmann and other opponents.
If MPAC’s convention is like past ones, Islamists will again be given a platform to rally Muslims to their cause, but this time, it won’t be in a mosque or a hotel conference room. It’ll be from a church pulpit.
This article was sponsored by the Institute on Religion and Democracy.