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by Daryl Temkin, Ph.D.
Thursday, Oct. 05, 2006 at 11:14 AM
DT@Israel-Institute.org (310) 508-0950 1227 Smithwood Dr. LA, CA. 90035
The Los Angeles County Human Rights Commission recently voted to nominate Dr. Maher Hathout to receive the John Allen Buggs Humanitarian Award. Of the fourteen member board, 5 were absent at the vote, 5 abstained and ONLY FOUR of the commissioners voted---all in favor of giving the award to Dr. Hathout. No other candidate was nominated or discussed. This despite the fact the award ceremony 0/plate dinner would be held Oct 5, during the month of Ramadan when Muslims traditionally fast. Despite this, the Muslim Public Affairs Council purchased 00 of luncheon plates and did NOT ask the commission to postpone the award.
A few years ago, the movie entitled “What Women Want” was a popular comedy shown on movie screens throughout the county. The comical movie storyline was about a man who, after an accident, temporarily became able to understand the mind of a woman. In reality, men and women generally do understand each other, but there are those select times when each sex would like a lexicon if not a crystal ball to comprehend the other.
Unfortunately, we are no longer in a comedy movie script but in a seemingly new stage of reality. Month after month, the world is being taught new lessons and rules indicating “what Muslims want”. The trend appears to be that once the new “want or demand” is understood, additional “wants and demands” get added. It is common for various groups to have wants and demands but the Muslim wants and demands are being seen as abhorrent as well as shocking.
In general, America and Europe take pride in their tolerance and acceptance of immigrant societies or minority groups. Both nations express deep concern for the protection of individual rights and are known for graciously accommodating the needs of minorities. They understand that minorities want to be respected, accommodated, and protected.
Recently, in regards to Islam, the efforts to respect, accommodate, and protect minority wishes have been subjected to a new and most challenging obstacle. The new challenge is known as “Islamic anger” which comes as a result of “insulting Islam”. “Muslim anger” has produced a rapid evolution of societal standards. The fear of initiating an Islamic insult, leading to anger and subsequent aggression have effectively served to modify societal behaviors, and have thwarted previous freedoms, standards, and attitudes. Newspapers must be careful what they publish, artists what they draw, speakers what they say, researchers what they write and now a Mozart opera is no longer to be performed because one of the scenes might cause insult to Islam.
The violent aftermath of events -- such as the Danish cartoons, the of pages ripped out of a Koran, the Koran found in a prison toilet, and now the words of the Pope -- have left a scarring impression on the non-Muslim world. These actions along with many other examples serve to teach “what Muslims want” and what they are willing to do in order to get what they want.
In Los Angeles, on October 5, 2006, the “moderate” Muslim leader, Dr. Maher Hathout, a man whose public addresses have contained vile and deeply offensive hate speech, will receive the once highly respected County of Los Angeles’ John Allen Buggs Humanitarian Award. The extremely controversial nomination of Dr. Hathout brought forth heated discussions and lengthy community hearings in the Los Angeles County Human Rights Commission meetings. Included in the county proceedings was a statement from a Muslim community supporter warning that if the humanitarian award nomination of Dr. Hathout was rescinded, there would be no way of knowing how the extremists in the Muslim community would react.
After hours of testimony concerning Hathout’s non- humanitarian conduct, there was the final vote of the fourteen member board -- five members were absent, five abstained, and four voted yes. This vote was considered the most important action of the Human Rights Commission in its twelve year history. The following question cannot be avoided. Was the fear of this potential threat in the City of Los Angeles as well as to the individual commissioners the basis for five commission members being absent and for the five members choosing to abstain?
Something odd took place in the County of Los Angeles over this very significant award nomination. Normal standards and rules were not followed as well as legal requirements were overlooked. Maher Hathout was the only nomination entertained and no alternate nominee was even discussed.
The award luncheon, scheduled on October 5th, is during Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting. At 0 a plate, the MPAC, the Muslim Public Affairs Council, purchased ,000 of luncheon tables and did not request that the luncheon be rescheduled to take place after Ramadan. There was a concern that if the luncheon was postponed, there would be more time for the Los Angeles community to protest the nomination of Dr. Hathout and a greater chance that the Human Rights Commission would rescind the award or be required to find a more fitting honoree.
Eating or not eating during a religious fast is an individual concern, but what is a communal concern is deception, coercion, anger, and implied threats. Hathout’s new title, “moderate”, allows him to remain an extremist and to fool most of the people coming to shake his hand. Muslims who claim to be “moderate” but who do not “fully” condemn terrorism and terrorist organizations including Hamas and Hezbollah, remain a problem. Muslims who support and justify the Islamic violent response to the Danish cartoons are not moderate. Muslims, who spend more time condemning the Pope’s words and not the actions of Islamic leaders and adherents who are calling for the Pope’s execution, are not moderates.
“Knowing what Muslims want” is not coming from a lexicon or a crystal ball. Perhaps the above serious incidents, along with the many worldwide violent and aggressive acts, have been the “accident” that has awakened much of the world to understanding “what Muslims want.” For better or worse, “what Muslims want” is being clarified by Muslim actions in contrast to the well crafted words of Muslim religious and political leaders.
At times, even to its own detriment, the Western world wants to be understanding and respectful to the values and traditions of others. But, may it be in Los Angeles with Maher Hathout, in the United Nations, or in the international world, duplicitous statements and actions of national leaders, must be heard, analyzed, and carefully evaluated. Fear and terror must not be allowed to dictate decisions, and deception must not be excused or overlooked in order to justify what any group should “want” or demand.
Dr. Daryl Temkin is the director of the Israel Education Institute and can be contacted at, DT@Israel-Institute.org.
This weekly column appears in the English edition of Ha'aretz, Shalom LA, Israel-Jewish Life, and also periodically appears in various North American and Eurpoean publications, web magazines, and blogs.
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