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News Analysis

Muslim Public Affairs Council Debates RadicalIslam.org

Thu, December 6, 2012

by: 
Ryan Mauro

Yesterday, RadicalIslam.org National Security Analyst Ryan Mauro debated the President of the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), Salam Al-Marayati on Airtalk about his article on the group’s holding of its convention inside the All Saints Episcopal Church of Pasadena, C.A. MPAC is also holding a press conference about the “right wing extremists” criticizing the church.

The press release failed to address a single fact in the article. In his discussion with Mauro, Al-Marayati repeatedly accused Mauro and RadicalIslam.org of lying, bigotry and hatred without offering a substantive rebuttal to the facts we presented.

Al-Marayati denied that the MPAC is linked to the Muslim Brotherhood and said it does not accept foreign money “even though foreign groups offered it to us.” He also claimed that he is not seeking to convert anyone to Islam because “we have more than enough Muslims.”

You can listen to the debate by clicking here.

When Mauro challenged MPAC to unequivocally condemn and stand against the Muslim Brotherhood as a way of improving the image of the Muslim-American community, Al-Marayati called it a “ridiculous suggestion.”  He said, “You want us to get into a political fight with these [Islamist] groups, it’s not worth our time…We are speaking to the masses.”

While MPAC is quick to condemn its opponents as “right-wing extremists,” its website does not condemn the Muslim Brotherhood as hundreds of thousands of Egyptians protest against it. Al-Marayati made a number of demonstrably false and misleading statements about MPAC on the radio show:

Claim: “[MPAC Founder Maher Hathout] has never said and I challenge anyone to come up with a statement or anything in any meeting or gathering that we are for the Muslim Brotherhood. It has never been stated.”

Maher Hathout, who Al-Marayati calls “the father of the Muslim-American identity,” has praised Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan Al-Banna as a “reformer.” He is a spokesman for the Islamic Center of Southern California, which he and his brother founded and MPAC originated in. The mosque recommends a book on Sharia Law titled Fiqh us-Sunnah by Sayyid Saabiq, a Muslim Brotherhood member working under the guidance of Al-Banna. It also recommends a book by senior Brotherhood cleric Shiekh Yousef Al-Qaradawi. 

Hassan Hathout, former MPAC President and Maher’s brother, describes himself as a “close disciple of the late Hassan Al-Banna of Egypt” in their 1989 book. He says that Al-Banna is “the person who most influenced my life” and “centuries might roll over before a similar personality is produced.”

Before coming to the U.S., the Hathout brothers were arrested in Egypt, which banned the Muslim Brotherhood. Hassan Hathout strongly suggested that it was their involvement with the group that led to their detainment, saying, “Long after Hassan Al-Banna, when Egypt had been through the Revolution and the new Regime, but Islam was always considered an enemy. We were persecuted; we were in jail, including my brother and myself.”

The two came to the U.S. in the years following Maher’s release from an Egyptian prison in 1968. Hassan said they sought to start the “Islamic Movement” in the U.S., which is the term that the Brotherhood uses to describe its work and that of fellow Islamists. He explained in 1997, “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 mirrors that of an internal U.S. Muslim Brotherhood document from 1991 that describes “its work in America as a kind of grand jihad in eliminating and destroying Western civilization from within.” The battle, the Brotherhood wrote in its private communications, was a “civilization jihad.” A 1989 U.S. Muslim Brotherhood Financial Committee document discusses working with someone by the name of Hathout that is “in the field.”

Claim: “There’s never been any mention of the Muslim Brotherhood since the inception of the Muslim Public Affairs Council.”

The Muslim Brotherhood is mentioned in MPAC’s policy paper, Building Bridges to Strengthen America. It states that “Conservative groups like the Muslim Brotherhood pose long-term strategic threats to violent extremists by siphoning Muslims away from violent radicalism into peaceful political activism.”

The paper also depicts the Brotherhood as an effective counter to Al-Qaeda and cites an article titled, “The Moderate Muslim Brotherhood.” The depiction of the Brotherhood is wholly positive.

MPAC’s former Political Director Mahdi Bray went to Egypt in 2007 to, in the words of an Egyptian news site, “express solidarity with Muslim Brotherhood detainees on trial before a military court and to call for an end to the crackdown on the Egyptian opposition.”

Claim: “We are the ones that are your hope in terms of reforming the Muslim world … [to] bring that moderate voice up.”

MPAC upholds Brotherhood-linked Islamists as “moderates” and “reformists,” putting this statement in a different light. As mentioned, it depicts the Brotherhood as a moderate group and Hassan Al-Banna as a reformist.

In 1997, Maher Hathout mentioned  Al-Banna, Sudanese Islamist Hassan Al-Turabi and Tunisian Islamist Rachid Ghannouchi as “reformists.” Ghannouchi spoke at an MPAC event in 2011.

Claim: “It was never stated that Israel was a suspect on 9/11.”

On September 11, 2001, Al-Marayati said, “If we’re going to look at suspects, we should look to the groups that benefit the most from these kinds of incidents, and I think we should put the state of Israel on the suspect list because I think this diverts attention from what’s happening in the Palestinian territories so that they can go on with their aggression and occupation and apartheid policies.”

He responded to the backlash by saying he was responding to someone who suggested that Wahhabism caused the attacks. “My point was to say if you’re going to accuse political Islam, then Muslims will accuse political Zionists, and we both should not do that,” he said. In the radio interview, he conceded that it was the “wrong way” to discuss the topic but denied ever calling Israel a suspect.

On September 13, 2001, Maher Hathout considered 9/11 conspiracy theories when someone suggested to him that the U.S. government’s identification of the hijackers was untrue. He thanked the person for their “unique information that needs to be more known and verified” and asked them to call MPAC’s publication. These conspiracy theories nearly always accuse Israel and/or “Zionist” elements in the U.S. government of staging the 9/11 attacks.

Claim: Democratic Congressman Brad Sherman supports MPAC.

Mauro responded to the accusation that he is a “right-wing extremist” by pointing out that Democratic Congressman Brad Sherman has made similar comments about MPAC and former Democratic Rep. Dick Gephardt withdrew Al-Marayati’s nomination to a commission on terrorism after MPAC’s history became an issue.

Al-Marayati said that Gephardt apologized to him afterwards for caving to political pressure and that Rep. Sherman gave him a community service award. While Rep. Sherman did honor Al-Marayati, this was before he learned about MPAC’s questionable history. You can see what Rep. Sherman thinks of MPAC by reading his July 30, 2008 press release and watching his August 2008 debate with Al-Marayati where the award is mentioned.

Claim: MPAC does not support Hamas or Hezbollah.

Al-Marayati told the Huffington Post that MPAC does not support the Hamas and Hezbollah terrorist groups. MPAC will not condemn the groups but has condemned some of their violent actions.

In 1998 and 1999, Al-Marayati and Maher Hathout defended Hezbollah as a “legitimate resistance” group. MPAC also legitimized Hezbollah’s bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Lebanon in 1983, saying it is “exactly the kind of attack the Americans might have lauded had it been directed at Washington’s enemies.”

At an MPAC rally in 2000, Abdurahman Alamoudi proclaimed his support for Hamas and Hezbollah to the delight of the crowd. Mahdi Bray was on the stage with him. In March 2004, Bray said the Israeli assassination of the founder of Hamas was “state-sponsored terrorism.” In 2003, MPAC opposed the designations of Hamas and Hezbollah as terrorist groups, saying:

“It is clear that the terrorist threat to the U.S. emanates from Al-Qaeda and not Palestinian groups. There is no evidence that Palestinian groups designated as terrorist organizations have any connections to Al-Qaeda. Yet the preoccupation with these groups raises the question as to whether targeting Palestinian groups serves true national security interests or is based on political considerations.”

All or nearly all condemnations of terrorist attacks by Hamas and Hezbollah include an argument that Israel is the main instigator and the greater evil and parrots Islamist propaganda. For example, MPAC’s statement on the bombing of a pizza place in Jerusalem in 2001 that killed 15 civilians including 7 children said “MPAC holds Israel responsible for this pattern of violence.”

MPAC’s immediate statement on the latest round of fighting did not condemn Hamas because “Israel is guilty of the greatest act of violence.” It accused Israel of “assassination of Palestinian leaders, destruction of Gazan infrastructure and the gross killings of Palestinian civilians, including women and children.” A later statement issued with an interfaith partner condemned Hamas’s rocket fire.

For MPAC, it is “not worth our time” to organize meaningful challenges to Islamists like the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, but it is worth their time to write press releases and hold press conferences to slam their critics as “right-wing extremists” and “Islamophobes.” On MPAC’s inexplicable priority list, it is more important to attack those who do challenge the Islamists than the Islamists themselves, even if they are a devout Muslim like Dr. Zuhdi Jasser.

We shouldn’t expect anything less from a group that says Hassan Al-Banna is a “reformer.”

Ryan Mauro is RadicalIslam.org's National Security Analyst and a fellow with the Clarion Fund. He is the founder of WorldThreats.com and is frequently interviewed on Fox News.