Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC): Profile By Stand4Facts.org
Countering MPAC is tricky. Founded in 1988 in Los Angeles, it has tried to be moderate, show how similar Islamic and American values are, and enter the political mainstream as the voice for American Muslims. But this veneer cracked with the 2nd Intifada and America’s War on Terrorism. Since then, MPAC has tried to distance itself from more radical American Islamic groups with which it was once allied, such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the American Muslim Alliance (AMA) and the American Muslim Council (AMC), but its basic message is similar. Some MPAC leaders are more extreme than others, but the organization is anti-Israel, denounces America’s support for Israel, tries to underplay links between terrorism and radical Islam, and only condemns specific terrorist acts, not terrorist organizations. A sample of its positions:
“Israel was established by terrorism.” Its founding “involved the unjust and illegal usurpation of Muslim and Christian land and rights” and “to recognize the legitimacy of that crime is a crime in itself.” ( MPAC joint statement denouncing the Oslo Accords, Sept. 17, 1993.)
MPAC 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).”
Israel is “racist, chauvinistic and militaristic.” Israel’s defensive measures against the 2nd Intifada “are nothing more than a war to steal land from Palestinians, to decimate their leadership, to humiliate the Palestinian people.”
Israel’s “Apartheid-like ideology” also victimizes Christians. “History shows that Muslim and Christian religious rights are not safe under Israeli occupation.”
Israelis are “the worst terrorists in the world….Yet Israel is not found on the list of state sponsors of terrorism in the (U.S.) State Department Report on Terrorism.” 
On 9/11, MPAC spokesman Salam Al-Marayati said if Islamic groups were suspects for the attacks, then Israel should be, too, since it had the “most to gain” and could use the aftermath to “divert attention…. so they can go on with their aggression and occupation and apartheid policies.” 
MPAC formally denounced suicide bombing, but defends Hezbollah (“It could be called a liberation movement.”), “holds Israel responsible for this pattern of violence” and reiterates the Palestinians’ right to use armed struggle.
MPAC co-sponsored pro-Palestinian rallies in the fall of 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. 
 MPAC Press Release August 9 2001; Steve Emerson, American Jihad, 2002, pp 210-216
Founded in Los Angeles in 1988, MPAC was originally a PAC organized to give American Muslims a political voice and promote their civil rights and integration in America. It hoped to make Americans comfortable with Islam by showing how much Islam shared core American values, and it hoped to bring a Muslim perspective on the Arab-Israeli conflict to Washington DC. Throughout the 90’s, MPAC was succeeding. It was seen as moderate and organized Muslim-Jewish dialogues in LA. Its members received invitations to the Clinton White House, appointments on federal commissions and were wooed by the Bush campaign. Its Senior Advisor, Dr. Maher Hathout, was invited to address the Democratic Convention in Los Angeles in 2000. Shortly thereafter, MPAC endorsed George Bush, a decision it came to regret.
MPAC is a relatively small, non-profit corporation with a budget just under a million dollars and with two Washington-based staffers, eight California chapters and one each in Texas, Kansas, Nevada and Iowa. Two MPAC leaders are on the six-man board of the Los Angeles-based magazine, The Minaret, which has been called a mouthpiece for MPAC. MPAC holds annual conventions. This year the convention will be in Long Beach in December 2003. 
Though MPAC, along with several other American-Muslim groups, denounced the Oslo Accords, it was able to maintain its centrist image until the polarizing events of the last three years-the 2nd Intifada in 2000, 9/11 and the Wars on Iraq and Terrorism.
MPAC had built bridges with the Jewish community, but severed them when Jews would not support its one-sided condemnations of Israel’s response to the Intifada. MPAC supported Bush in the 2000 election, but after 9/11, it actively opposed Bush’s policies in Afghanistan, Iraq and on Homeland Security and has aligned with left wing anti-Bush groups. MPAC claims that Islam is a religion of peace and moderation but denies that militant Islam is an aberration (all religions have fundamentalists) and refuses to condemn Wahabism or terrorist groups such as Al Queda, Hamas or Hezbollah. MPAC condemns suicide bombings publicly but then hedges, justifying and endorsing Palestinian resistance.
MPAC’s image was tarnished because it tried to be the umbrella group for several American Muslim organizations and frequently issued joint statements with them. But these groups are now under increased government scrutiny, including CAIR and the American Muslim Council. MPAC has proudly insisted that it has never been supported by foreign money.
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, co-hosts pro-Palestinian campus events such as UCLA’s May 20, 2001 Conference on Palestine, and participates in anti-war rallies and meetings with ANSWER, ISM and other groups.
MPAC’s speaker roster includes widely different personalities and styles:
Salam Al-Marayati: Executive Director. He tries to be reasonable, but can be pushed into exposing his true opinions.
Laila Al-Marayati: A physician and Salam’s wife. Prominent in her own right. Charming and attractive, she movingly and gently speaks of Palestinian suffering. She’s a frequent guest on panels about women’s and children’s issues.
Maher Hathout: Senior Advisor and head of the Islamic Center of Southern California. A physician, Dr. Hathout seems to be the expert on Islam.
He is more intransigent than Al-Marayati though he has reached out to the Jewish community since 1971. He doesn’t seem to speak on campuses very much, however.
Sarah Eltantawi: Communications Director. Ms. Eltantawi is a frequent campus speaker and maintains a moderate, reasonable tone.
Mahdi Bray: Political Director. Mahdi Bray, an African-American convert to Islam who had been active in the civil rights movement, is a firebrand. A controversial radio talk show host in Washington DC, Bray is also on the boards of several other Muslim American groups. He organizes rallies and appears frequently on campuses where he uses inflammatory, theatrical rhetoric. It is not clear if he is still MPAC’s Political Director, but he remains on its Board of Directors. He was a guest speaker for New Jersey Solidarity on March 5, 2003, one of the most extreme and virulent anti-Israel groups.
Omar Ricci: National Chairman. A recent college graduate, he was a student activist for social change and led rallies, for example, to end homelessness in LA. He wants to “establish the American Muslim constituency as a vital and positive element within American pluralism.” He has not spoken on campuses very much, though this may change.
MPAC is tricky to counter because of its moderate veneer. It has tried to distance itself from its affiliate, more radical Muslim-American organizations, but their positions remain similar even if their presentations vary considerably. Though MPAC’s speakers have different styles, they tend to use similar techniques:
Denial. For example, MPAC essentially denies the magnitude of the terrorism Israel faces. In its position statement on the Road Map, it contends that “Israel cannot be allowed to use the actions of a few extremists bent on derailing the Road Map to destroy the process.” Similarly, MPAC reiterates that Islam is a religion of “peace” and “moderation” and shouldn’t be identified with terrorism. Fundamentalist Islam is no different that fundamentalist Judaism and Christianity. Terrorism is caused by sociological problems alone. (Al-Marayati, “The Rising Voice of Moderate Muslims,” January 28 2002 )This argument ignores the fact that Christian and Jewish fundamentalists are not blowing themselves up among innocent civilians in the name of their religion.
Normalizing, even Americanizing, extremes by using a form of cultural relativism. Hezbollah terrorists are much like “freedom fighters hundreds of years ago whom the British regarded as terrorists.” Similarly, instead of joining the fight to close Islamic charities that fund terrorism and fraudulently use donor funds, MPAC opposes the policy for violating American values. MPAC argues that targeting Islamic charities is discriminatory and interferes with freedom of religion and the exercise of the Muslim obligation to give charity.(Salam Al-Marayati article October 11, 2002) 
Evasiveness/Hedging. MPAC tries to appeal to and uphold American sensibilities, but at the same time support the Palestinians. The result is roundabout statements that are hard to pin down. MPAC condemned specific suicide bomb attacks and when questioned about its position on terrorism, points to those condemnations. But MPAC also in effect excuses the policy by claiming that armed resistance to occupation is legally sanctioned and that the root cause of the violence is Israeli policies. (eg MPAC Press Release, “MPAC Issues Statement on August 8 Bombing in Jerusalem, August 9, 2001.)
Claiming victimization. MPAC speakers argue that the US is “dominated” by Zionists and has a double standard that favors Jews and discriminates against Muslims. The US government scrutinizes Muslim charities but not pro-Israel charities, some of which finance Sharon, “the war criminal.” Similarly, Jewish “terrorists” like the Jewish Defense League, are not investigated while Islamist militants are called terrorists. 
Calling for sympathy while ignoring context. Laila Al-Marayati in particular describes the suffering of Palestinians in refugee camps and in the Territories. It is heart wrenching. Remember to fill in the context. Israel has no control over how Arab states treat Palestinian refugees.
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” 
“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
“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.
“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
“Jewish unlawfulness is tolerated because powerful brokers can dictate terms on Congress and the Administration.”  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