Tribute to Dr Maher Hathout- Founder of MPAC

A HOMAGE TO DR MAHER HATHOUT - who passed away couple of months ago

by MUSLIM Council of America (MCA)

Dr Hathout is no more with us. Yet, he would remain alive amidst us in the form of the trail he carved for Muslims to follow. Dr Hathout made these choices when no body thought of them nor had the courage to tackle them. Only few of the choices he made are mentioned here, first in abstraction then followed by a personal narrative The main one was his initiative to direct Muslims orientation toward America as opposed to our home of origin and choosing interfaith, pluralism, and humanitarianism (each of which is integrated under the rubric of Americanism ), each of this is dear to our heart and our mind. When it came to him, DR Hathout was a pioneer in initiating each of them, while It was strange and repulsive to Muslims. He broadened their thinking from an exclusive emphasis on Islam to an all-inclusive ways of looking at other religions and humanitarian spirit that runs in all of them Dr Hathout was a trailblazer, indeed. Some of his trails cut across organizational confines. For example MCA- a different organization- is only proud to acknowledge its commitment to the above. Dr Hathout initiated these ideas , expressed them so meaningfull y and enacted them so effectively.

B. Dr M.Akhtar, ( President of MCA). From the perspective of a Psychologist

Two Entangled areas : 1)Relating to Jews and2) Relating to oneself (identity) Both are entangled in our high emotions and leave us terribly divided and unable act or make the correct choices. Not Dr Maher , he had the courage to push through the conflicts of jews and Muslims and choose the right directions. That was half a century ago. Interfaith groups were not what they are now..Let me illustrate by going over my own example 25 years ago when I was President of the Islamic center of Pittsburgh.A recently formed Interfaith group was having a hard time and to ger members and practically begged me, and I joined them, It was O.K . it organized a trip to sacred places of different faiths. Jersalem was on top of the list. I received a threatening letter implying bodily harm to me if I went to the trip.Letter was anonymous so I did not had to tell my plans to any one. Then a pamphlet was distributed after Friday prayer accusing me of being an agent of the Israeli government which was financing my trip (which was inaccurate). Being a “traitor”, I was to resign from the presidency of All Centers and Mosques of Pittsburgh. I refused to step down but invited to an open meeting instead. Fortunately, that meeting went well. The accusation, however, that I was insensitive to the bloodshed of thousands of innocent Muslim men, women, and children who are being slaughtered by Israel left me divided, shaken and downhearted. So, I decided not go on that trip. Going back to Dr Hathout, he encountered the conflict of jews and Muslims with a similar dynamics but with one difference : he was faulted not by Muslims group but by a jew ish organization for his harsh criticism of the Israeli government. Despite the jewish opposition, he managed to be elected as the President of the Human Relation Committee of Los Angeles, because of his friendship with some Rabbis and members of other faiths who voted for him. He came out on top because of his personal warmness for all – his sense of humanity, along with his feelings of a real Muslim individual. There lies the secret of his greatness

The same formula of integration enabled him to excel in the second area of relationship, that is, with his own self and with others in the community. Way back when he started his interaction with Americans , because their significance and power, he learned to incorporate American emphasis with the sense of his own self. That made him a pioneer of American identity without any doubt. He did that intuitively and practically. Many issues of Muslim-American identity still need to be worked out for Muslims. MCA has been working on them modestly from the viewpoint of Psychological theory. Recently we learned the limitation of logical reasoning as compared to the intuitive grasp of the reality if it is grasped insightfully.. For instance, in one discussion the reason given to the Muslims group to adopt American ways was that we came to America by our own choice, took America as our new bride leaving behind the old wife, say she died. This analogy left the audience cold and unreceptive, because it had weakness. Weakness in the analogy of the old wife for old home is their love is too deep to be erased for someone who spent the entire childhood and the good number of years afterward compared to the love for the new home is too shallow to make it endearing in one generation, Yes if it is extended to two generations the balance of preference would tip the balance in the direction of new home specially when the loss at one is simultaneously the gain of the other. This made a whole lot of sense when I came across the statement made by Dr Hathout, “Home is not where my grandparents are buried but where my grand children will be buried” How amazingly insightful of Dr Maher Hathout!

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