Jews and Muslims - For "Dialogue" or Cooperation?
by Stephen Schwartz
Salam al-Marayati, boss of the so-called Muslim Public Affairs Council in Los Angeles, is at it again. In a profile published in the Los Angeles Jewish Journal of January 19, 2007, al-Marayati complains that Jewish leaders won't give him the attention he craves for so-called "dialogue."
The title of the profile is "Despite past sparks, Al-Marayati wants Jewish dialogue." That's a nice euphemism – "sparks" – when a better description of al-Marayati's rhetoric toward American Jews might be "acid thrown in the face."
Al-Marayati, lest we forget, informed the Los Angeles public on a radio talk show in the afternoon of September 11, 2001 that Israel could be responsible for that day's horrors, because, according to him, "this diverts attention from what's happening in the Palestinian territories, so that [Israelis] can go on with their aggression and occupation and apartheid policies."
And early in 2002, al-Marayati declared on MSNBC, "the country that introduced terrorism in the [Middle East] region is Israel. The root cause of terrorism is the illegal Israeli settlements." Al-Marayati seemed unaware of the anti-Jewish riots in Palestine beginning in 1919-20. But nobody should be misled into thinking the MPAC commissar is a historian or other kind of intellectual.
Salam al-Marayati is a demagogue, pure and simple. His bad faith originates with his mentoring by veteran hatemonger Maher Hathout, who declared in 1998 that U.S. retaliation against al-Qaida in Afghanistan, after the bombing of American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, was "illegal, immoral, unhuman, unacceptable, stupid, and un-American." A psychologist might describe Maher Hathout calling someone else "immoral," "stupid," and "un-American" as "projection."
Al-Marayati also betrays his ill intentions when he whines self-pityingly that he has been "targeted" for criticism. Since when should he or anyone else in the American public square be exempt from analysis of his utterances? He even has the really unbearable nerve to compare himself with... wait for it... Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.! Once again revealing that he is no historian, al-Marayati ignores that Dr. King stood only for nonviolence, and would never excuse terrorism. Were al-Marayati and his cohort to recommend a strategy like that of Dr. King's for aggrieved Palestinians, MPAC might gain some credibility in asking for dialogue with Jews, but other serious questions would still need to be answered.
First, why should American Muslims continue to accept the domination of self-appointed spokespeople from MPAC, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), and other components of the "Wahhabi lobby," controlled by acolytes of the extremist and terrorist-generating sect that remains the state religion in Saudi Arabia? The MPAC-CAIR-ISNA cadres squat on the backs of American Muslims in a way reminiscent of the Soviet gerontocracy – once they gain power they never give it up. How is it that American Muslims are the first minority group in the history of the country to have produced no new leaders, almost no independent voices, and no serious internal discussion about their future?
Some naïve moderate Muslims are easily lured into the MPAC quicksand on the specious argument that such is the only way to reach "the community." The history of community organizing in America, from the labor movement to the civil rights movement, shows the opposite: no effort against oppression can succeed by accommodating the unjust. Those who seek to mobilize American Muslims against the Wahhabi lobby must draw a firm line against it, and refuse to cross it.
Second, al-Marayati bewails his experience as a member of a minority in Phoenix, Arizona, a majority-Christian city. What a tragedy! African slaves, Catholics (especially the Irish but also Italians and Slavs), Jews, members of small Protestant sects, Hispanics, Asians, Mormons, and any number of other minorities in America experienced real discrimination, far worse than the tremors induced in the sensitive al-Marayati, for many decades in this country. Some of them were killed for their color or religion. In contrast, violence against Arabs and Muslims in America has been notably rare, no matter how assiduously groups like MPAC and CAIR seek to exaggerate it. But do the aforementioned groups maintain a permanent rhetoric of grievance about past injustices? Some do; most do not. They worked their way past a sense of victimhood to great achievements as Americans.
When will American Muslims excel as other minorities have? Where are the American Muslim academics, authors, artists, journalists, and other exemplars such as have come from the ranks of every other minority? Why do American Muslims stay in a ghetto of their own making, taught in Wahhabi mosques and by alleged civil-rights advocates that they have no business entering the broader culture? Lawyers, engineers, and medical personnel may be well represented in American Islam, and there are many African American Muslim sports stars, but they are not enough for American Muslims to gain real acceptance, which can only come about through dedication to common principles and hard work.
In his most offensive recent statement, al-Marayati said Jewish groups "want a monopoly on discourse and don't want our voices heard, especially as it relates to the whole Middle East." This Jew-baiting slur would be laughable were it not despicable. Since when do Jewish groups have a monopoly on debate about the Middle East? The Middle East Studies departments of American universities are crowded with tenured apologists for Arab and Islamist radicalism. Mainstream media bends over to politely describe Hamas bombers as "militants" rather than terrorists. Ex-president Jimmy Carter, has just published a repellent volume with a title reminiscent of al-Marayati's September 11th hate speech – "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid" – joining the Los Angeles loudmouth in the obscene equation of the state of Israel with the former South African regime. Leftists of Jewish origin like Noam Chomsky and Tony Judt attack Israel with nauseating regularity, and are lionized for it.
So the supporters of Israel have a monopoly on discourse and, inferentially, suppress critics of Israel? One should be so lucky as to "suffer" as Chomsky, the idol of millions of American college students, does.
Al-Marayati claims he "personally apologized" to Jewish leaders for his September 11 outburst. But when will he apologize to Daniel Pipes, Steven Emerson, Pat Robertson, and Don Rumsfeld for the infamous 2004 MPAC convention poster equating them with Osama bin Laden? Don't hold your breath!
Al-Marayati and others claim they want "dialogue" with Jews, meaning an opportunity to rehash their old, mendacious rhetoric. Muslims, looking back in Islamic history, would better ask for cooperation with Jews, since both are non-Christian minorities in a Christian country. But I'm not holding breath on that, either, at least with regard to al-Marayati and MPAC.