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L.A. Muslim leader fooled community

first_imgNo, he isn’t. No one is trying to stifle his right to speak freely. Personally, I don’t want him silenced. I want him to say the same things to Jewish audiences that he says to Muslims and Arabs. I’d like to see one face, one real face. I am able to tolerate being disagreed with, but trust between people and groups is not built by duplicity.To get a Human Relations award, one should be turning down the rhetorical heat so that light may be seen. Words and name-calling turn up the heat and set a fire, destroying the bridges I thought we were building together.The question before us is not, as Hathout would have it, if he should he be silenced. The appropriate question is whether calling Israelis “butchers, terrorists and racist apartheid occupiers” should be honored with a human relations award.And some predicted that after 9-11 there would be no more irony.Jonathan Dobrer is a professor of comparative religion at the University of Judaism in Bel-Air. Write to him by e-mail at jdobrer@adelphia.net.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREThe joys and headaches of holiday travel: John PhillipsHe goes on to say that “the U.S. Congress is the only Israeli settlement outside of Israel.” He attributes this quotation to another source, but he uses it to bolster his argument.It gets much worse, and Hathout’s real face shatters his amiable mask of reasonableness. “Israel,” he says, “is a racist apartheid state practicing state terror.” But he demurs that he doesn’t want to criticize Israel in detail because “butchers do what butchers do.” This is exactly the kind of “collective guilt and punishment” with which critics charge Israel. Hathout also says, “The (Arab) nations that made peace with Israel will be swept away in the cesspool of history.”Hathout seems to be following the lead of Yasser Arafat, who said one nice and tolerant thing in English and then in Arabic promised eternal jihad. Unfortunately, perhaps even tragically, this once beloved spokesman for moderation now injures Muslims and Jews by undermining the faith we can have in our communications.Many good-hearted American Jews and Muslims have been meeting and talking, trying to find understanding and bridge differences. We all must wonder if this is not like lying while in couple’s therapy. How can we resolve issues if our therapeutic meetings are founded on less than truth?When the question is brought back to the question of the appropriateness of the award, Hathout claims that the issue is not whether he said Israel is a terrorist state governed by butchers. No the “real question” is one of freedom of speech. He says of the growing objections about his selection for the award: “I’m not talking about Middle East politics. I’m talking freedom of speech here.” THE scheduled presentation of a Human Relations Commission award to Dr. Maher Hathout on Oct.5 in Los Angeles has stirred up a controversy and shattered the surface calm of interfaith dialogue locally. It has pitted rabbi against rabbi and minister against priest. Ironically, this prestigious award for promoting good human relations has turned into a melee.For years, Hathout has been the friendly face of Islam in Southern California. This now seems to be a false face. Tapes and writings have revealed that Hathout has spoken in the kind of heated rhetoric – against Israel and Jews – that does not promote good relations among local humans.As senior advisor to the Muslim Public Affairs Council, Hathout has participated in many interfaith dialogues and spoken cordially to Jewish groups. I have enjoyed meeting and speaking with him on numerous occasions. I have also moderated interfaith dialogues in which he participated at the University of Judaism. He portrayed himself as a moderate, someone with a point of view but without hate. He projected calming assurances of tolerance.Thus, I feel a sense of personal betrayal. This man, who has sat next to me and spoken of how Muslims were misunderstood and badly portrayed in U.S. media — which I thought at the time was a fair point — now places his complaint in context by explaining that “the U.S. is under Israeli occupation.” This is pretty much the touchstone of anti-Semitism: Israel controls American Jews, and together we run the government and the media.last_img

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