Wednesday 12th of August 2020

Father of the American Muslim Identity Dies at 79

Father of the American Muslim Identity Dies at 79

Dr. Maher Hathout, a prominent Muslim leader who died Friday at age 79, was remembered Sunday as a pillar of the community, a tireless advocate for interfaith dialogue and a social justice activist who was instrumental in shaping American-Muslim identity.

On Friday night, the world lost a pioneer, visionary and a leader of the American Muslim community.

Dr. Maher Hathout (1936-2015) was a leader for Islam and for humanity, a voice for the voiceless, a patriot, a poet, a physician, a friend and a family man. He made an indelible impression on everyone he met.

Born in Egypt in 1936, Dr. Maher Hathout has been an activist and a thinker dedicated to the cause of freedom and Islam since his childhood.

Widely regarded as the Father of the American Muslim identity, he stressed for more than four decades that being a faithful Muslim was entirely compatible with being a proud American. Dr. Hathout believed that American Muslims would contribute to America by practicing the Islamic values of mercy, equity and justice.

He moved many of us from darkness to light and he wanted all of us to discover the power in the Quran's message to do the same for others. Upon moving to Los Angeles from Buffalo, New York, Dr. Hathout immersed himself in volunteering at the Islamic Center of Southern California (ICSC) as Chairman and Spokesperson.

One of the most progressive mosques in the country -- the ICSC had a woman on its board of directors in 1952 -- the Islamic Center became a vehicle for a vision of Islam in America that is rooted in what Dr. Hathout called the definition of home: "Home is not where my grandparents are buried, but where my grandchildren will be raised."

Dr. Hathout went on to work with the founders of the Center to launch a series of pioneering projects and organizations, including the first-ever co-ed Muslim Youth Group, the Islamic Information Service that produced a nationally televised weekly program on Islam, The Minaret magazine, the New Horizon School system, and the Muslim Public Affairs Council. In 1988, he co-founded MPAC, and served as our Senior Advisor thereafter.

These organizations are examples of Dr. Hathout's tireless dedication to pioneering institution-building in the American Muslim community and to fostering a strong American Muslim identity among youth. Despite working as a full-time cardiologist, he made his thinking and working for Islam a life-time endeavor. Throughout his life, Dr. Hathout firmly spoke out to clarify Islam as a religion of coexistence, reason and moderation. With that as his mission, he authored the "Declaration Against Extremism" in 2013. In his most recent public appearance at MPAC's 2014 convention, Dr. Hathout embodied the message of this document during a speech titled, "Extremism: Between Wrong Policy and Corrupt Ideology."

He was also among the pioneers of interfaith engagement within the American Muslim community, helping found the Religious Coalition Against War in the Middle East with Rev. George Regas and Rabbi Leonard Beerman in 1991. Dr. Hathout was a charter member of the Pacific Council on International Policy, the western partner of the Council on Foreign Relations, served on the Board of Directors of the Interfaith Alliance and Claremont Lincoln University, and as Chairman of the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California. Over the years, Dr. Hathout was invited repeatedly to Capitol Hill and the State Department to address a variety of topics, such as "Islam and U.S. Policy," "Islamic Democracy," "Emerging Trends in Islamic Movements," and "The Future of the Middle East." He was also the first Muslim invited to give the invocation prayer at the Democratic National Convention in 2000.

He was the author of several books, including Jihad vs. Terrorism, In Pursuit of Justice: The Jurisprudence of Human Rights in Islam, and Islam 2.0: Conversations for Muslim Generations.

Dr. Hathout was the recipient of many awards, including the George Regas Courageous Peacemaker Award, the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California's Lifetime Service Award, the South Coast Interfaith Council Award for his life-long commitment to interfaith work and the Los Angeles County John Allen Buggs Award for excellence in human relations. He is survived by his wife Dr. Ragaa Hathout, his children Gasser and Samer, and his grandchildren Heba, Laith, Dean and McKenna.

The MPAC family asks for prayers of patience and support for the Hathout family during this difficult time.

Funeral services are scheduled for this Monday, Jan. 5, 2pm at Rose Hills Cemetery in Whittier, California.

Dr. Maher Hathout, a prominent Muslim leader who died Friday at age 79, was remembered Sunday as a pillar of the community, a tireless advocate for interfaith dialogue and a social justice activist who was instrumental in shaping American-Muslim identity.

"I really believe he shaped the landscape for American Muslims to be an integral part of American society," said Salam Al-Marayati, president of MPAC. "Before he took the leadership at a major Islamic center, the idea was to go to the mosque as a way of escaping society. His major contribution was (that) you go to mosque to recharge your batteries and engage society and be a part of society's challenges and opportunities."

On Sunday evening, hundreds of community members gathered at the Islamic Center of Southern California on South Vermont to pray for the retired cardiologist's soul, to hear a recitation from the Quran from his grandson Dean Hathout and to share their fondest memories and reflections.

The Muslim and non-Muslim communities worldwide, but particularly in America, have lost an eminent leader, a wise man, a genuine friend and a true servant of Islam and humanity, said Imam Sayed Moustafa Al-Qazwini, founding imam of the Islamic Educational Center of Southern California in Costa Mesa.

"He worked tirelessly to bring the hearts and minds of people of faith together," he said. "He was a peacemaker and bridge builder. He pioneered interfaith as well as intra-faith efforts. He was a man of reason and balance."

The Egyptian-born Hathout strove for harmony among followers of different faiths and between those of differing Muslim schools of thought, he said.

He was a man who rose above boundaries between religions and other schools of thought "to bring about togetherness and harmony among people," Al-Qazwini said.

His many interfaith efforts included partnering with his friends Rabbi Leonard Beerman, who died on Dec. 24 at age 93, and with Rev. George Regas of All Saints Church in Pasadena to establish the Religious Coalition Against War in the Middle East in 1991. He also was the first Muslim to chair the Los Angeles Interfaith Council, according to MPAC.

He also developed an "intra-faith code of honor" in which leaders of the Shia and Sunni Muslim communities pledged in 2007 to prevent the rise of sectarianism in the American Muslim community, Al-Marayati said.

And for those who knew him the best, he was recalled as an exceptional and determined human being.

"Most people, myself included, seem better than they really are," said his son, Dr. Gasser Hathout. "Their public persona is better than their private. He stands nearly alone in my mind as a man who was actually a better human being and father than he was in public."

His granddaughter, Heba Hathout, said he taught her to banish the thought that she couldn't accomplish something or had anything to fear. He also taught her that the "spirit of God is in all of us."

For Hussam Ayloush, executive director of the Greater Los Angeles area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Hathout was not only a pillar and a pioneer but among the most courageous voices of the American-Muslim community.

"Whether it's speaking against injustices by our own country, or maybe by fellow countrymen or fellow Muslims, he was using the same Islamic principles of ...speaking for truth and against injustice," Ayloush said.


source : www.abna.ir
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