Salam Al-Marayati is the founder of the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), a Los Angeles-based Islamic advocacy group that defends Muslim extremist violence. MPAC has condemned the anti-terrorism measures of both the U.S. and Israel, and has called for a repeal of the Patriot Act.
During a 1997 speech he delivered at the University of Pennsylvania, Al-Marayati equated the concept of jihad to the statements of the eighteenth-century American statesman Patrick Henry. Said Al-Marayat, “[T]he person who we think in America would epitomize jihad would be Patrick Henry, who said, ‘Give me liberty or give me death.’ That is a way of looking at the term jihad from an American perspective.”
On the afternoon of September 11, 2001, Al-Marayati used a Los Angeles talk radio program as a forum in which to accuse the Israelis of responsibility for that morning’s attacks on New York and Washington. Al-Marayati has also called for the U.S. government to unfreeze the assets of two Islamic charities, the Global Relief Foundation and the Holy Land Foundation, that were shut down by the government because of funding they had given to terrorist organizations.
Al-Marayati refuses to call Hezbollah a terrorist group. “I don’t think any group should be judged 100% this or that,” he says. “I think every group is going to have . . . its claim of liberation and resistance.” He has similarly justified Hamas‘ existence as a political entity that promotes social programs and “educational operations.” “Yesterday’s terrorists in the Middle East are today’s leaders,” he says. “The PLO is the number one example of this . . . The PLO 35 years ago was considered a terrorist organization, nobody should deal with them . . . But they became the people in authority, in Palestine, today. So Hamas today, the way it’s being viewed, is exactly how the PLO was viewed 30 years ago. And in fact, even Hamas in terms of its social and educational operations is doing exactly what the PLO was doing 35 years ago, as well as its quote unquote military operations.”
In October 2010, the Barack Obama administration picked Al-Marayati to represent the U.S. government at the annual Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe human-rights conference, known as the Human Dimension Implementation Meeting.