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Salam Al-Marayati: Profile and Biography

By Stand4Facts.org
 


Overview

Al-Marayati seems a polite, moderate Arab-American Muslim, is a frequent media spokesperson for American Muslims and was the Clintons’ guest at the White House several times. He espouses American ideals and has reached out to the Christian and Jewish communities. An Iraqi-American, Al-Marayati co-founded and became director of the Los Angeles based MPAC, the Muslim Public Affairs Council, in 1988 to bring help integrate Muslims into American politics and give them a voice.

While Al-Marayati is not as radical as his MPAC colleagues--Maher H. Hathout and former board member Mahdi Bray-or as his coalition organizations such as CAIR, he is not a moderate. Consider some of his positions:

  • Al-Marayati tries to normalize Islam by showing that it shares the values of the US Constitution-but he also argues that separation of church and state, “is not the only acceptable form of government” and in essence endorses sharia.[1]
  • He objects to Islam alone being identified with terrorism and denies Wahabism poses any dangers. “There are radical Christian, Jewish and Hindu movements, too, which are also capable of slaughtering innocents (The Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda, Baruch Goldstein and the settler extremists in Israel, the Hindutva motivated pogroms in India).”[2]
  • Al-Marayati equated jihad (holy war) with Patrick Henry’s ‘Give me liberty or give me death;” and terrorists to “American freedom fighters a hundred years ago [who] were also regarded as terrorists by the British.” 1996[3]
  • Hezbollah’s attacks on Israel in the 1990’s were “not terrorism. That is legitimate resistance.”[4] PBS News Hour 1999
  • Israel was “established by force, violence and terrorism” and is “racist, chauvinistic, and militaristic.” Statement signed by MPAC1993.[5]
  • Israel’s defensive action against terrorism “is nothing more than war to steal lands from Palestinians, to decimate their leadership, to humiliate the Palestinian people.”[6] Alan Keyes Show 4/15/02
  • Terrorism is the work of only a “few extremists” and Israel “cannot be allowed” to use their actions “to derail the Road Map.”[7] MPAC Statement on the Road Map
  • “If we’re going to look at suspects [for 9/11], we should look to the groups that benefit the most…. 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.” Al-Marayati, on KCRW 9/11/01[8]
  • “Flaws in State Department Global Terrorism Report…..it flouts both reason and justice to ignore large-scale state-sponsored terrorism when perpetrated by Israel, to focus solely on the acts of Palestinians.” MPAC statement May 18 2001.[9]
  • “The US government has once again demonstrated its double standard….American Muslim charities have lost practically all presumption of innocence…while other groups have conducted the most egregious conduct in financing extremism with impunity…..In the case of pro-Israel charities….. the impression (is given) that indicted war criminals (ie Sharon) have been provided American tax shelter…..MPAC challenges the US Treasury Department to open an investigation of these irregularities….” MPAC Statement January 27, 2003[10]
  • “Jewish unlawfulness is tolerated because powerful brokers can dictate terms on Congress and the Administration.” [11] MPAC-affiliated magazine, The Minaret, 1994
  • MPAC co-sponsored pro-Palestinian rallies in 2000 where MPAC speakers chanted “Khaybar, Khaybar, oh Jews, the Army of Muhammed is coming for you!”; posters called for “Death to Israel” and literature called for the destruction of the Jews and Israel.[12]

“The terms terrorism and terrorist are being used so carelessly and inclusively that any and every resistance to U.S. domination is brought under their rubric. The Hamas suicide bomber who kills civilians in Tel Aviv as well as the Hamas doctor who provides free medical care in occupied territories is a terrorist.” MPAC Statement “Counterterrorism,"September 1 1996[13]


[1] www.beliefnet.com/story/102/story_10272.html

[2] www.backofbeyond.org/eastsidefreepress/commentary/mpac.html )

[3] The Minaret, June 1996 cited at www.zoa.org/pressrel/2011022a.htm

[4] (Al-Marayati interview on PBS News Hour Nov. 24 1999 at www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/race_relationsjuly-dec99/muslims_11-24.html

[5] Alan Keyes show, 4/14/02. Transcript at www.renewamerica.us/show/transcripts/01_04_15akims.htm )

[6] Alan Keyes show, 4/14/02. Transcript at www.renewamerica.us/show/transcripts/01_04_15akims.htm )

[7] www.mpac.org/popa_article_display.aspx?ITEM=558

[8] Reported at www.jewishjournal.com/home/print.php?id=7506 and www.aarweb.org/awards/journalism/winners/2002Caldwell.asp

[9] www.mpac.org/news_article_display.aspx?ITEM=198

[10] http://www.mpac.org/news_article_display.aspx?ITEM=385

[11] The Minaret, May/June 1994 cited at www.zoa.org/pressrel/19960624a.htm )

[12] Steve Emerson, American Jihad, 2002, p. 211

[13] http://www.mpac.org/news_article_display.aspx?ITEM=224

Biography

Al-Marayati was born in Baghdad in 1960 and his family emigrated to the USA when he was four. He got a degree in chemical engineering at the University of California and became involved in politics as the liaison to the Muslim community for a Los Angeles City council member. By 1988, he had helped found the Muslim Public Affairs Council and quickly became a rising star in politics. He seemed moderate, deeply committed to American values and to Islam, and worked hard to make the two seem compatible. He helped establish the Muslim-Jewish Dialogue in Los Angeles, was a member of the Executive Committee of the California Democratic Party and a Clinton delegate to the 1996 Democratic National Convention. His wife Laila, a physician, was invited to go with Hillary Clinton to the International Women’s Conference in Beijing, and appointed to serve on the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom in 1999.

Al-Marayati’s rising fortunes took a downward turn when Richard Gephardt tapped him to be on the 10-member National Commission on Terrorism in 1999. Jewish groups strenuously objected to the appointment, presenting evidence of his anti-Israel positions and his equivocations about condemning Hamas, Hezbollah and other terrorist groups.[1] He did not get the appointment.

Al-Marayati’s veneer of moderation became increasingly difficult to maintain after the polarizing events of the past three years-the second Intifada in 2000, 9/11 and the War on Iraq and on Terrorism. These events exposed the contradictions in his positions and forced him and his organization to take more openly radical stands. His organization had built bridges to the Jewish community, but severed them when Jews would not support MPAC’s one-sided condemnations of Israel’s response to the Intifada.[2] Relations with Jews further deteriorated when Al-Marayati said on the radio on 9/11 that Israel should be on the suspect list of terrorist perpetrators because it benefited from the attack.[3] Al-Marayati later tried to retract the statement. He supported Bush in the 2000 election, but after 9/11 actively opposed Bush’s policies in Afghanistan, Iraq and on Homeland Security and has aligned with anti-Bush groups.

Al-Marayati claimed that Islam is a religion of peace and moderation but denies that Islamism (extremist, militant Islam) is an aberration and refuses to condemn Wahabism or acknowledge it poses any threat. “Assertions that Wahhabism is the problem are misguided…”[4] Sociological factors cause terrorism, not religion or ideology.[5] He frequently condemns Palestinian suicide bombings publicly, but then hedges, justifying and endorsing Palestinian resistance. MPAC’s affiliate organizations have come under increasing government scrutiny with suspected ties to Saudi Arabia and terrorist groups and have engaged in anti-Semitic demonstrations.[6]

Though Al-Marayati has relatives still living in Iraq who were tortured and killed by Saddam Hussein’s regime, he opposed the war in Iraq and continued to focus most of his attention on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. MPAC became involved with the gamut of anti-war, pro-Palestinian groups that have become so active across American campuses. MPAC co-sponsored rallies to support the Intifada from October to December 2000, co-hosts pro-Palestinian campus events, such as UCLA’s May 20, 2001 conference on Palestine, and has since joined anti-war rallies and meetings with ANSWER, ISM and other groups.

Al-Marayati, or MPAC’s Communications Director, are also a frequent guest speakers on college campuses. For example, MPAC Communications Director Sarah Eltanawi spoke at east coast college campuses in the fall of 2002.[7]

Affiliations for Joint Programs

CAIR

American Muslim Alliance

American Muslim Council

American Public Affairs Council

Muslim Student Association


[1] See for example, www.zoa.org/pressrel/19990624a.htm and www.cnn.com/ALLPOLITICS/stories/1999/07/29/terrorism.commission

[2] “MPAC Statement Regarding Muslim-Jewish Dialogue” May 25, 2001 at www.mpac.org/home_article_display.aspx?ITEM=197

[3] www.jewishjournal.com/home/print.php?id=7506

[4] Al-Marayati, “The Rising Voice of Moderate Muslims,” January 28 2002 at www.beliefnet.com/story/102/story_10272.html

[5] Al-Marayati, “The Rising Voice of Moderate Muslims,” January 28 2002 at www.beliefnet.com/story/102/story_10272.html

[6] http://www.washtimes.com/national/20031028-103853-1728r.htm and http://www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/ReadArticle.asp?ID=10137

[7] www.mpacnews.org:8100/Lists/MPACnews/Message/72.html

Accusations and Defamations

  • “A major threat to the safety of the Muslim community is the Islam bashing that has been very evident since 9/11. There has been a steady stream of attacks on the Quran, including specific verses taken out of context, and on the Prophet (PBUH). These attacks are vicious, mean-spirited, and politically motivated. The attacks have come from several different corners of society, but the most sustained and vitriolic are from right-wing Christian groups led by Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson.”

A second stream of attacks have been against American Muslims in particular and this type of attack has focused on tarring the community with the label “Islamist”. These attacks have been led by Daniel Pipes and Steve Emerson, with the primary goal the McCarthy-like desire to completely exclude American Muslim leaders from the political process. MPAC is committed to opposing this movement both intellectually and in the media.” MPAC “2003 Platform Issues” [1]

  • “If we’re going to look at suspects [for 9/11], we should look to the groups that benefit the most…. 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.” Al-Marayati, on KCRW 9/11/01[2]
  • “Flaws in State Department Global Terrorism Report…..it flouts both reason and justice to ignore large-scale state-sponsored terrorism when perpetrated by Israel, to focus solely on the acts of Palestinians.” MPAC statement May 18 2001.[3]
  • “The US government has once again demonstrated its double standard….American Muslim charities have lost practically all presumption of innocence…while other groups have conducted the most egregious conduct in financing extremism with impunity…..In the case of pro-Israel charities….. the impression (is given) that indicted war criminals (ie Sharon) have been provided American tax shelter…..MPAC challenges the US Treasury Department to open an investigation of these irregularities….” MPAC Statement January 27, 2003[4]
  • “Jewish unlawfulness is tolerated because powerful brokers can dictate terms on Congress and the Administration.” [5] MPAC-affiliated magazine, The Minaret, 1994
  • “The scandal of Abu Ghraib was not an isolated incident but an manifestation of hate rooted in a distortion of American culture. The soldiers charged for torturing and sexually humiliating Iraqi prisoners were reflecting, among other things, an irrational hatred against Arabs and Muslims. Hatred in Abu Ghraib is inextricably linked with hatred increasingly fostered by some elements of our government, our media, and other major national institutions.”MPAC statement, “The Root Causes of Abu Ghraib,” May 7 2004[6]

 


[1] http://www.mpac.org/plat_menu.aspx

[2] Reported at www.jewishjournal.com/home/print.php?id=7506 and www.aarweb.org/awards/journalism/winners/2002Caldwell.asp

[3] www.mpac.org/news_article_display.aspx?ITEM=198

[4] http://www.mpac.org/news_article_display.aspx?ITEM=385

[5] The Minaret, May/June 1994 cited at www.zoa.org/pressrel/19960624a.htm )

[6] http://www.mpac.org/home_article_display.aspx?ITEM=674

Strategy

Al-Marayati still tries to maintain his veneer of moderation, but since the Intifada and 9/11, it has becoming increasingly difficult to do. His techniques for maintaining that veneer are:

  • Denial. For example, he claims that militant Islam and Wahabism shouldn’t be identified with terrorism (Islam is a religion of “peace and moderation”) and that they are no different than fundamentalist strains in Judaism and Christianity. Terrorism is caused by sociological problems and terrorism should never be identified as Islamic. (He ignores the fact that Christian and Jewish fundamentalists are not blowing themselves up in civilian centers in the name of their religion.)
  • Normalizing, even Americanizing, extremes by using cultural relativism. Hezbollah terrorists are much like “freedom fighters 100s of years ago whom the British regarded as terrorists.” Similarly, instead of joining the fight to close Islamic charities that fund terrorism, he opposes the policy as discriminatory and claims the measures interfere with freedom of religion and the exercise of the Muslim obligation to give charity. (www.mpac.org/popa_article_display.aspx?ITEM=18 )
  • Hedging/equivocating. Al-Marayati tries to appeal to and uphold American sensibilities, but at the same time support the Palestinians. The result is very roundabout statements that are hard to pin down. Al-Marayati condemns suicide bombing in one breath, but in effect excuses it in the next by arguing that armed resistance is sanctioned and that the root cause is Israeli policies.
  • Claiming a US double standard that favors Jews and disadvantages Muslims. The US government scrutinizes Muslim charities but not pro-Israel charities, some of which finance Sharon, “the Israeli war criminal.” (www.mpac.org/news_article_display.aspx?ITEM=385 ). Similarly, Jewish “terrorists” like the Jewish Defense League get a pass while all Islamist activists are called terrorists. (www.payk.net/mailingLists/iran-news/html/2002/msg00425.html )


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