Controversial Muslim Leader Receives Award, Despite Protests

September 22, 2006

Source: The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles

On September 22, 2006 The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles reported, "At a meeting that featured catcalls, standing ovations and the ejection of a disruptive audience member, Los Angeles' County Human Relations Commission voted again Monday to give an award to Dr. Maher Hathout, a local Muslim leader whose harsh rhetoric on Israel generated accusations of anti-Semitism and extremism.

The four commissioners who voted in favor were outnumbered by five who abstained and four who were absent.

Hathout's victory marks the first time a Muslim-American has received the commission's award.

In what Commission President Adrian Dove called a "tough hearing," the public body ended weeks of uncertainty by reaffirming its vote to confer the John Allen Buggs Award for excellence in human relations on Hathout, despite opposition from much of the organized Jewish community. Detractors had portrayed the chairman of the Islamic Center and senior advisor to the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) as an apologist for terror and called his past criticism of Israel veiled anti-Semitism. Hathout and his supporters have countered that he supports a two-state solution, has long renounced terrorism on theological grounds and for years has worked closely with local Jewish groups to bridge the chasm between Muslims and Jews.

Five commissioners -- Donna Bojarsky, Vito Cannella, Rebecca Isaacs, Eleanor Montano and Mario Ceballos, abstained. Bojarsky, public policy consultant and founder of L.A. Works, a volunteer-service organization, is the child of a Holocaust survivor; she suggested that the honor had been tainted by the process and the controversy and that the commission should recognize Hathout's contributions by making him the keynote speaker at its Oct. 5 awards banquet... However, many believe the rancor surrounding the doctor's selection has dealt a knock-out blow to hopes of reviving the multi-agency interfaith cooperation needed to dispel the mutual recriminations and mistrust that now envelope relations between the Jewish and Muslim communities in Los Angeles."