The Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) returned to All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, California on May 5 to address the topic of radicalization in the wake of the Boston bombings. The church leader said there is a “crisis” of “Islamophobia” in America. MPAC denounced violence but said terrorism is a response to the U.S. “aiding and abetting oppression” at the behest of the military-industrial complex.
At the May 5 event, church leader Rev. Ed Bacon said that he “literally had my life changed and my thinking changed because of these two leaders,” referring to MPAC leaders Maher Hathout and Salam al-Marayati. He went so far as to say that the Islamic Center of Southern California, where Hathout is a spokesman and Muslim Brotherhood texts are used, is “my mosque.”
At the event, both MPAC leaders denounced terrorism and said Muslims must provide a counter-narrative to the violent themes that radicalize. Hathout said that too many Muslims are “soft” in confronting the radical ideas and have a “gang” mentality where they automatically side with other Muslims against non-Muslims.
However, Hathout said America is run by an elite minority beholden to lobbyists. He said that American democracy is threatened by “Islamophobia” driven by supremacists who believe “the other” doesn’t deserve equal rights.
Al-Marayati rightly pointed out that there is an ideological struggle and reform in Islamic teaching is needed, but attributed the conflict to anger over the aggression of America and its allies.
“When a superpower is aiding and abetting oppression and there are grievances, and people react in a violent way, they [Americans] look at the violence and they say it is not time to deal with the grievances,” he said.
He claimed that there is a “cottage industry” of anti-Muslim activists that is part of a “larger machine,” including the military-industrial complex and special interests. These conspirators “want more contracts for more weapons to countries that only use these weapons against their own people or against civilians.”
MPAC held its last annual conference at this church, where Reverend Ed Bacon denounced “evangelical Zionism” as an evil on par with slavery. The church and MPAC held a press conference to declare their critics “right-wing extremists” who are “hateful.”
The critics noted that MPAC was founded by Muslim Brotherhood ideologues, including Senior Adviser Maher Hathout’s brother who was a “close disciple” of the group’s founder, Hassan al-Banna. Maher Hathout says he remains “very proud” of his time in the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, but emphasizes it was 60 years ago. His brother said they came to the U.S. to spread the “Islamic Movement” of al-Banna.
After coming to America, one or both of the Hathout brothers was connected to the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood, as a 1989 document shows. MPAC has maintained a close alliance with U.S. Brotherhood entities ever since. In 1997, Maher Hathout promoted Hassan al-Banna as one of the “reformists,” along with other Islamists like Rachid al-Ghannouchi, who MPAC still hosts. In 1998 and 1999, he and al-Marayati legitimized Hezbollah’s attacks on Israeli soldiers.
In 2000, Hathout said a “general intifada” would overthrow Arab governments guilty of “treason” for not confronting the “butchers” of Israel. Around this time, MPAC started becoming more conscious of the language it was using. Hathout said he regretted the “harshness of my remarks” when they received negative attention, but not the message. Tellingly, a radical named Mahdi Bray continued to serve as MPAC’s Political Director.
In 2003, MPAC criticized the designations of Hamas and Hezbollah as Foreign Terrorist Organizations, suggesting that it was done out of “political considerations.” Its 2010 policy paper characterized the Muslim Brotherhood as a moderate “conservative” group that could be used to counter Al-Qaeda’s influence. In 2012, I debated al-Marayati and challenged MPAC to confront the Muslim Brotherhood. He replied that it was a “ridiculous” suggestion and “it’s not worth our time.”
To be fair, MPAC’s overall tone has changed. Maher Hathout criticizes the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and says he’s on the side of the opposition, though he has “great respect” for the group and believes Egyptian President Morsi is “sincere.” During last year’s convention at All Saints Church, he said that Sharia Law’s penal code is not applicable for today and “we don’t want to enforce Sharia anywhere.” He also said Muslims must “chase out the ideology of death” and oppose blasphemy laws.
Al-Marayati criticized CNN for reporting suggesting that religion and mosques are causing extremism. He seemed to suggest that this network enabled the Boston bombings to happen. He said that the “rise in Islamophobia” is causing law enforcement to look in the wrong places. Apparently, one of those wrong places in his opinion is the Islamic Society of Boston, where the bombers worshiped.
He pointed out that Tamerlan Tsarnaev was thrown out of a Friday service after he confronted an imam for exalting Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a non-Muslim. He didn’t mention that the mosque has deep Muslim Brotherhood ties, promoted the theme that the U.S. government persecutes Muslims, justified hitting women and children and had radical guest speakers. The radicalism at the mosque scared away a moderate Muslim who then started speaking out about it.
This is contradicted by what Islamist terrorists tell us. Their grievances flow out of their ideology. The Muslim Brotherhood spiritual leader, Sheikh Yousef al-Qaradawi, said the conflict with Jews “is not driven by nationalistic causes or patriotic belonging; it is rather driven by religious incentives.” He then goes on to talk about a prophetic battle “between the collective body of Muslims and the collective body of Jews i.e. all Muslims and all Jews.”
Osama Bin Laden said the same thing. In discussing the core of the war with the West, he explained, “There are only three choices in Islam:  either willing submission [conversion];  or payment of the jizya, through physical, though not spiritual, submission to the authority of Islam;  or the sword — for it is not right to let him [an infidel] live. The matter is summed up for every person alive: Either submit, or live under the suzerainty of Islam, or die.”
The message of MPAC and its allies to interfaith audiences is that Islamist terrorism is what happens when you ignore their advice.
This article was sponsored by the Institute on Religion and Democracy.
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