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Islamist Organization Profile

Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC)

Tue, January 22, 2013

by: 
Ryan Mauro

Year Formed: 1986

Website: www.MPAC.org

2010 Revenue: $2,814,625. This is the total revenue of MPAC ($1,194,001) and the MPAC Foundation ($1,620,624).

Address: 3010 Wilshire Blvd. #27, Los Angeles, CA 90010

The Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) says it is an “American institution which informs and shapes public opinion and policy by serving as a trusted resource to decision makers in government, media and policy institutions. MPAC is also committed to developing leaders with the purpose of enhancing the political and civic participation of American Muslims.”[2]

MPAC was founded by Muslim Brotherhood members, specifically Hassan and Maher Hathout. The former passed away in 2009 and had served as its president. The latter remains a senior adviser.

MPAC was originally the Political Action Committee of the Islamic Center of Southern California (ICSC). It became independent and changed its name in 1988,[3] though the two remain intertwined. The MPAC Foundation’s 2010 IRS Form 990 says one of its primary purposes is to “serve the community of the [ICSC] and promote its ideology and principles.” Maher Hathout is the spokesman for the ICSC[4] and ICSC sponsors MPAC conventions. [5]

The ICSC’s website has a bibliography page that includes texts by Brotherhood spiritual leader Yousef al-Qaradawi and Brotherhood member Sayed Sabiq, who authored his book under the supervision of Brotherhood founder Hassan al-Banna.[6] Hathout addressed this fact at the 2012 MPAC convention, calling it the “funniest” criticism he has faced. His answer was, “So what? You want censorship?” He compared it to how schools have books by Marx and Hitler.

Maher Hathout and three of his colleagues were jailed in Egypt because of their membership in the Muslim Brotherhood.[7] Hassan Hathout described himself as a “close disciple” of Hassan al-Banna[8] and said in 1997 that he “is the person who most influenced my life” and that “centuries might roll over before a similar personality is produced.”[9]

Maher Hathout was released from prison in 1968, and the brothers left for Kuwait. In 1971, they moved to Buffalo, New York, before ending up in California to establish the ISCS in 1978.[10]

Maher Hathout said at the 2012 MPAC conference that he came to the U.S. with the objective of “sharing the gifts of Islam.” Hassan Hathout said that they came to spread the “Islamic Movement” inspired by Hassan al-Banna.[11]

Maher Hathout says that his relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood ended when he came to the U.S., and he and MPAC have had no foreign links since. However, a 1989 U.S. Muslim Brotherhood Financial Committee document includes instructions to contact someone named Hathout “in the field.”[12]

A 1991 U.S. Muslim Brotherhood memo, which says its “work in America is a kind of grand jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within,” does not list MPAC as one of its affiliated organizations. However, MPAC has long worked in unison with those that are.

For example, on September 17, 1993, MPAC signed a joint condemnation of the Oslo Accords with the Islamic Association for Palestine, Islamic Society of North America, Islamic Circle of North America, Muslim Arab Youth Association and Muslim Students Association.

The statement said “to recognize the legitimacy of that crime [the creation of the state of Israel] is a crime in itself and any agreement which involves such recognition is unjust and untenable."[13] The 1991 memo identifies every single one of these as “our organizations and the organizations of our friends.”

In 1997, Maher Hathout praised the work of Hassan al-Banna, Tunisian Islamist Rashid al-Ghannouchi and Sudanese Islamist Hasan al-Turabi as “reformists.”[14] Hassan Hathout also said Muslim-Americans should follow in the footsteps of Hassan al-Banna because “this current civilization harbors in its body the seeds of its own destruction.”[15]

In 1998, Maher Hathout said of Hezbollah, “I disagree with them on other issues, but on the issue of fighting to liberate their land and attacking only armed forces, this is legitimate—that is an American value—freedom and liberty.”[16] MPAC President Salam al-Marayati similarly said in 1999 that Hezbollah’s attacks on Israeli soldiers are “legitimate resistance.”[17]

In 1999, an MPAC position paper tried to make the case that Hezbollah is not a terrorist group. It said that Hezbollah’s bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Lebanon in 1983 “was not in a strict sense, a terrorist operation. It was a military operation, producing no civilian casualties—exactly the kind of attack that Americans might have lauded had it been directed against Washington’s enemies.”[18]  In 2006, MPAC said it “completely deplore[s] the attack” and was just pointing out a “highly relevant fact.”[19]

In 2000, Maher Hathout gave a speech where he predicted that a “general intifada” would resulted in Arab governments “flushed down in the cesspools of history of treason.” He described Israel as “butchers” and “an apartheid state against every fiber of the modern world.”[20]

When this attracted negative attention, he said he regretted the “harshness of my remarks” but stands by them. MPAC says it supports a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

On May 18, 2001, MPAC accused Israel of “ethnic cleansing” and state-sponsored terrorism:

“If terrorism is defined as the use of violence against noncombatants to achieve a political goal, then US policy is aiding and abetting the worst terrorists of the world. When Israeli civilians are killed, it is called terrorism. When Palestinian civilians are killed, it is called security … These actions constitute state-sponsored terrorism and escalate the cycle of violence. Yet Israel is not found on the list of state sponsors of terrorism in the State Department report. No mention is made of Israel's indiscriminate use of military force against civilians.”[21]

Before heading the Muslim American Society’s Freedom Foundation, Mahdi Bray was MPAC’s Political Director. In October 2000, he was on stage with Abdurrahman Alamoudi when he declared his support for Hamas and Hezbollah. The audience cheered and Bray gestured his approval.[22] Alamoudi was later convicted on terrorism-related charges and admitted to being a secret Muslim Brotherhood member.

Bray later condemned the Israeli assassination of Hamas’ spiritual leader as “state-sponsored terrorism.”[23] He also accused the U.S. of waging a “war on Islam.”[24] In February 2008, Bray traveled to Egypt to stand in solidarity with Brotherhood members being prosecuted by the ruling government.[25]

On September 11, 2001, MPAC president al-Marayati immediately cast suspicion on Israel, saying “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.”[26]

Maher Hathout likewise entertained conspiracy theories suggesting that the U.S. government had provided false names of the hijackers. On September 13, 2001, he was in an online chat where someone claimed that one hijacker was alive and another had been dead for over a year. Hathout asked him to call MPAC’s publication.[27]

Dr. Ali Mazrui spoke for MPAC in 2002. He compares Israel to Nazi Germany and said at the event:

“There is also suspicion that some members of the Bush administration in collusion with Israel are more than ready to plunge the Middle East into turmoil in the hope that the final outcome would be to the territorial advantage of Israel and the strategic advantage of the United States. All this is part of the emerging external sadism of the United States, a readiness to hurt others abroad.”[28]

In 2003, MPAC opposed the designations of Hamas and Hezbollah as Foreign Terrorist Organizations. It said:

“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 serve true national security interests or is based on political considerations.”[29]

On May 23, 2007, terrorism expert Steven Emerson debated MPAC Communications Director Edina Lekovic on television[30] and quoted from a publication called Al-Talib where she worked when she was a student. A July 1999 issue of the publication, titled “Spirit of Jihad,” has Ayatollah Khomeini and Osama Bin Laden on the cover. The issue lists Lekovic as a managing editor and its editorial said:

“When we hear someone refer to the great Mujahid (someone who struggles in Allah’s cause) Osama Bin Laden as a ‘terrorist,’ we should defend our brother and refer to him as a freedom fighter; someone who has forsaken wealth and power to fight in Allah’s cause and speak out against oppressors.”[31]

Lekovic denied on television that she worked for Al-Talib. Shortly thereafter, she admitted she “briefly” worked for the publication up until June 1999 when she graduated. She says that the listing of her name in the July 1999 issue was a “printing mistake,” and that she was not involved in the issue.

However, the publication acknowledged her role in various capacities a dozen times between October 1997 and May 2002. This includes her name appearing as a managing editor in the May 1999 issue that promoted Holocaust denial and as an assistant editor in the September 1999 issue that claimed that the “Blind Sheikh” that was convicted in the 1993 World Trade Center bomber is innocent. Lekovic says she “abhor[s] the sentiments” and they are antithetical to her current work.[32]

In 2010, MPAC published a policy paper that depicted the Muslim Brotherhood as a positive force. It said, “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.”[33]

The same report also says that “the takeover of mosques by extremists has been negligible,” even though the North American Islamic Trust, identified by the U.S. government as a U.S. Muslim Brotherhood entity, owns mosques and Islamic centers across the country.

In 2011, MPAC arranged two speaking engagements for Tunisian Islamist Rashid Ghannouchi, calling him “One of the most important figures in modern Islamic political thought and theory.”[34]

When Israel launched Operation Pillar of Defense in November 2012 after it was targeted with over 100 rockets by Hamas in the Gaza Strip (a territory that Israel completely withdrew from in 2005) , MPAC immediately condemned Israel. It claimed that the campaign is not about terrorism and is “in reality it’s about the assassination of Palestinian leaders, destruction of Gazan infrastructure and the gross killings of Palestinian civilians, including women and children.”[35] It did not condemn Hamas or even mention the rocket fire.

Two days later, MPAC said it opposed “the move toward more active warfare by both sides” but that “the greatest act of violence in the West Bank and Gaza is the ongoing Israeli occupation.”[36] It wasn’t until nine days after its initial statement that MPAC took a stronger stand against Hamas. It signed an interfaith statement that criticized both sides and said, “There is no excuse for the indiscriminate firing of rockets onto civilians.”[37]

MPAC regularly depicts its critics as “extremists” with anti-Muslim motivations. It held its 2012 conference at All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, California. Notably, at the event, Rector Ed Bacon said “evangelical Zionism” is an “act of evil” committed by Christians, along with slavery and Islamophobia.[38]

Clarion Project National Security Analyst Ryan Mauro wrote an article criticizing the church for partnering with MPAC[39] MPAC and All Saints subsequently held a press conference condemning the writing of “right-wing extremists.” A report about the “Islamophobia Network” in America was offered to attendees.[40]

At the convention, Marayati called MPAC’s critics “political extremists in America that cannot see Muslims as basically normal people.” Maher Hathout said that the critics think they “own” the country and are trying to stop diversity.

MPAC President Al-Marayati was challenged in a radio debate about the event to take an active stance against the Brotherhood. He replied that it was a “ridiculous suggestion” and “it’s not worth our time.”[41]

Maher Hathout said he is “very proud” of his time in the Muslim Brotherhood[42] and has “nothing to regret or apologize for” because he was fighting against the British and the Nasser regime. He said that he has had no connection to the Muslim Brotherhood since arriving in the U.S.

In a radio interview on November 23, 2012, Hathout criticized the power grab of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, who represented the Muslim Brotherhood in the campaign. He called it an “imminent threat” but said he still has “great respect” for the Muslim Brotherhood and believes Morsi is “sincere.”[43]

During the 2012 MPAC conference, Hathout said, “we don’t want to enforce Sharia anywhere” and that Sharia Law’s penal code is not suitable for today. He also called on Muslim leaders to “chase out the ideology of death.” In addition, he spoke out against banning criticism of Islam.

Although MPAC says its mission is to “enhance the political and civic participation of American Muslims,” it partnered with other Muslim Brotherhood-originated groups to campaign against the appointment of Dr. Zuhdi Jasser to the U.S. Commission on International Freedom. Even though Jasser is a devout Muslim, MPAC accused him of having “anti-Muslim affiliations” and opposing Muslim religious freedom.[44] Jasser is an anti-Islamist activist and critic of the Muslim Brotherhood legacy groups.

MPAC also said that Jasser has no following. However, a 2011 Gallup poll found that only 6% of Muslim-American males and 1% of females chose MPAC as the organization that most represents their interests, even though MPAC has large resources and has been around since 1988.[45]

In December 2013, MPAC issued a Declaration Against Extremism, but had sponsored an extremist American Muslims for Palestine conference only days prior.[46]

 


[1] Address as stated on January 1, 2013 on the “Contact Us” page of the MPAC website. http://www.mpac.org/contact.php

[2] “Our Vision & Mission,” MPAC website, http://www.mpac.org/about/vision-and-mission.php

[3] “History,” MPAC website, http://www.mpac.org/about/history.php.

[4] “Dr. Maher Hathout: A Man With Vision,” InFocus News, http://www.infocusnews.net/index.php/en/content/blogcategory/1476/1083.

[5] ICSC is listed as a bronze-level sponsor ($2,500) in the program for MPAC’s convention in 2012.

[6] “Bibliography,” Islamic Center of Southern California website, http://www.icsconline.org/index.php/component/content/article/43-books/p...

[7] Hathout, Hassan. “Living Memories: My Mother,” The Minaret, Vol. 14, No. 5 (Sept/Oct 1992). As documented by the Investigative Project on Terrorism in “Behind the Façade: The Muslim Public Affairs Council,” http://www.investigativeproject.org/documents/misc/358.pdf.

[8] “Muslim Public Affairs Council Tries to Derail Congressman’s Hearings,” press release from the office of Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA), republished by IPT News, “Congressman Sherman Turns the Tables on MPAC,” July 30, 2008, http://www.investigativeproject.org/1120/congressman-sherman-turns-the-t...

[9] Hathout, Dr. Hassan. “The Man Who Influenced My Life,” IslamICity.com, undated. http://www.islamicity.com/voi/transcripts/HassanAB.htm. The Investigative Project on Terrorism records the original source as being the Voice of Islam, December 25, 1997. It is unclear if that is the date of the statement.

[10] Goodstein, Laurie. “A Nation Challenged: The American Muslims; Influential American Muslims Temper Their Tone,” New York Times, October 19, 2001. http://www.nytimes.com/2001/10/19/us/nation-challenged-american-muslims-...

[11] Hathout, “The Man Who Influenced My Life.”

[12] “Meeting Agenda of the Financial Committee,” February 18, 1989. Document introduced into evidence during the trial of the Holy Land Foundation.

[13] Lewis, Michael. “Israel’s American Detractors—Back Again,” Middle East Quarterly, December 1997, Vol. IV: No. 4,  p. 25-33.  http://www.meforum.org/372/israels-american-detractors-back-again

[14] “Apologists or Extremists: Maher Hathout,” Investigative Project on Terrorism, July 9, 2008. http://www.investigativeproject.org/profile/109

[15] Hathout, “The Man Who Influenced My Life.”

[16] The statement was made at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. “Hate Speech Long an MPAC Specialty,” IPT News, February 10, 2010. http://www.investigativeproject.org/1789/hate-speech-long-an-mpac-specialty

[17] The statement was made on NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, PBS, “Muslims in America,” November 24, 1999. Documented by the Investigative Project on Terrorism, “Apologists or Extremists: Salam al-Marayati,” March 24, 2010. http://www.investigativeproject.org/profile/114#_ftn5

[18] “Apologists or Extremists: Salam al-Marayati,” the Investigative Project on Terrorism, March 24, 2010. http://www.investigativeproject.org/profile/114#_ftn5

[19] “MPAC Exposes Steve Emerson’s Self-Serving Distortions,” MPAC website, January 28, 2004. http://www.mpac.org/issues/islamophobia/mpac-exposes-steve-emersons-self...

[20] Gerstein, Josh. “Board Reaffirms Award for Contentious Muslim Leader,” New York Sun, September 19, 2006. http://www.nysun.com/national/board-reaffirms-award-for-contentious-musl...

[21] “Flaws in State Department Global Terrorism Report,” MPAC website, May 18, 2001. The article has been deleted by MPAC but is documented here: http://web.archive.org/web/20040626025219/http://www.mpac.org/news_artic...

[22] “MAS’ Activist Wing Closes Shop,” IPT News, June 21, 2011. http://www.investigativeproject.org/2988/mas-activist-wing-closes-shop

[23] As stated in a March 23, 2004 MAS press release titled, “"MAS Condemns the Assassination of Sheikh Yassin, Calls for Congressional Action.” Documented by the Investigative Project on Terrorism, “Apologists or Extremists: Mahdi Bray,” June 20, 2011. http://www.investigativeproject.org/profile/112#_ftn4

[24] “Cover Story: American Muslims and Politics,” Religion & Ethics News Weekly, PBS.org, November 2, 2001. http://www.pbs.org/wnet/religionandethics/week509/cover.html

[25] “MB Military Sentencing Session Feb, 26th,” IkhwanWeb, February 2, 2008. http://ikhwanweb.com/print.php?id=15945

[26] Stammer, Larry B. “Jewish-Muslim Dialogue Newly Tested,” Los Angeles Times, http://articles.latimes.com/2001/sep/22/local/me-48579

[27] Live Dialogue with Dr. Maher Hathout, "American Muslims Condemn Attacks on U.S.: Dialogue 2," September 13, 2001, as documented by the Investigative Project on Terrorism, “Apologists or Extremists: Maher Hathout,” July 9, 2008, http://www.investigativeproject.org/profile/109.

[28] “MPAC Exposes Steve Emerson’s Self-Serving Distortions,” MPAC website, January 28, 2004. http://www.mpac.org/issues/islamophobia/mpac-exposes-steve-emersons-self...

[29] “A Review of U.S. Counterterrorism Policy: American Muslim Critique & Recommendations,” MPAC policy paper, September 2003, p. 62. http://www.mpac.org/assets/docs/publications/counterterrorism-policy-pap...

[30] May 23, 2007, Kudlow & Company, CNBC.

[31] “The Spirit of Jihad,” Al-Talib, Vol. 9, No. 6, July 1999, http://www.investigativeproject.org/redirect/1999-07_Al-Talib.pdf

[32] Emerson, Steven. “Ms. Lekovic…A Dozen Printing Mistakes?” Counterterrorism Blog, May 30, 2007. http://www.investigativeproject.org/293/ms-lekovica-dozen-printing-mistakes

[33] “Building Bridges to Strengthen America,” MPAC policy paper, condensed version, July 19, 2010, p. 8-9.  http://www.mpac.org/assets/docs/publications/building-bridges/MPAC-Build...

[34] “Attend MPAC-DC Forum on Islamic Political Movements & Dinner with Ghannouchi, Tunisian Revolutionary Leader,” MPAC website, November 29, 2011. http://www.mpac.org/events/attend-mpac-dc-forum-on-islamic-political-mov...

[35] “Politics Aside: Where is the Humanity for the Gaza Strip?” MPAC website, November 15, 2012. http://www.mpac.org/programs/government-relations/dc-news-and-views/poli...

[36] “MPAC Expresses Grave Concern About Gaza,” MPAC website, November 17, 2012. http://www.mpac.org/issues/foreign-policy/mpac-expresses-grave-concern-a...

[37] “AFPI Statement on Recent Israel/Gaza Conflict,” MPAC website, November 24, 2012. http://www.mpac.org/programs/interfaith/afpi-statement-on-recent-israelg...

[38] Mauro, Ryan. “MPAC-Linked All Saints Church: ‘Evangelical Zionism’ is ‘Evil,’” FrontPage Magazine, January 3, 2012. http://frontpagemag.com/2013/ryan-mauro/mpac-linked-all-saints-church-ev...

[39] Mauro, Ryan. “Crossing the Interfaith Line: Islamists Take Advantage of Naïve Christians,” ClarionProject.org, December 5, 2012. http://www.ClarionProject.org/analysis/crossing-interfaith-line-islamist...

[40] “All Saints Church Under Attack From Right-Wing Extremists for Hosting MPAC Convention,” MPAC website, December 4, 2012. http://www.mpac.org/convention/all-saints-church-under-attack-from-right...

[41] “All Saints Church Criticized for Hosting American Muslim Convention,” AirTalk, December 5, 2012. http://www.scpr.org/programs/airtalk/2012/12/05/29554/how-well-do-people...

[42] “Interfaith Press Conference,” AllSaintsPasadena1 YouTube channel, December 6, 2012. http://youtu.be/LCWRG-8DcQw

[43] “Egypt’s Morsi Dramatically Expands His Power,” AirTalk, November 23, 2012. http://www.scpr.org/programs/airtalk/2012/11/23/29387/egypts-morsi-drama...

[44] “Zuhdi Jasser Does Not Belong on USCIRF,” MPAC website, March 30, 2012. http://www.mpac.org/programs/government-relations/dc-news-and-views/zuhd...

[45] Gallup Nightly Poll from January 1, 2008 to April 9, 2011.  http://www.gallup.com/strategicconsulting/153611/REPORT-Muslim-Americans...

[46] “MPAC Cosponsors Palestine Conference in Irvine,” MPAC website, December 7, 2013. http://www.mpac.org/events/mpac-cosponsors-palestine-conference-in-irvine.php#.UrJrmvS1zAl