The Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations voted today to present their prestigious John Allen Buggs Award for excellence in human relations to Muslim American leader Dr. Maher Hathout, handing a victory to proponents of mutual understanding and free speech.
With four votes in favor, no opposition and five abstentions, the Commission resisted extremist forces who sought to exclude a renowned Muslim American leader from receiving the prestigious recognition on the basis of criticism for the state of Israelâ€™s policies.
Following the decision, Dr. Hathout thanked the Commission and shared how humbled he felt to be the first Muslim American to receive the honor, which will be presented to him at the John Anson Ford Awards Luncheon on October 5th at the Biltmore Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles.
â€œWe, the voices of moderation and bridge-bulging from all walks of life and religious persuasions, have all won today,â€ said Hathout. â€œOur allies in the Los Angeles community and beyond gathered to protect our democracy and our Constitutional rights as Americans, and as a result, they defeated the voices of exclusion and hostility today. This is an important opportunity for us to all strengthen our work to promote constructive, meaningful dialogue and mutual understanding as part of our shared values as Americans.â€
This award is a landmark for the Muslim American community, one which demonstrates that their ongoing work to forge stronger bonds within their broader communities in civic, cultural and religious life. In order to nurture the health and harmony of broad and diverse communities in the County of Los Angeles, Dr. Hathout and MPAC look forward to the opportunity to engage in open and civil dialogues with civic and religious leaders to contribute to constructive public discourse.
With more than 150 people in attendance, the Commission today heard an extended round of public comment which featured diverse interfaith, civic and community leaders who testified to Dr. Hathoutâ€™s decades long contributions to enhancing civic, religious and cultural life in Los Angeles County and opposed the vicious character assassination they said appeared intent on excluding the much-needed voices of mainstream moderate Muslims in public discourse.
Following the public comment, the Commission first voted unanimously to rescind the award in order to avoid possible litigation threatened by the Zionist Organization of America and the American Jewish Committee last week based on possible irregularities around the announcement of public meetings where the decision to honor Dr. Hathout was made in July. Immediately afterward, a new motion was made to nominate Dr. Hathout for the award, which resulted in four affirmative votes, no opposing votes, and five abstentions. The commission then adjourned.
Founded in 1988, MPAC is a public service agency working for the civil rights of American Muslims, for the integration of Islam into American pluralism, and for a positive, constructive relationship between American Muslims and their representatives.