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From the Blog
Dr. Maher Hathout is a leading spokesperson for the American Muslim community, and a unique and valuable voice on national and international issues involving Muslims. An Internist and Cardiologist by profession, Dr. Hathout has had his own practice since 1976 in internal medicine and cardiovascular disease in the city of Duarte, California. He serves as the Senior Advisor of the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), which was established in 1988 to make Islamic ethical values available to the American political process. He is the Spokesperson and former Chairman of the Islamic Center of Southern California.
Dr. Hathout has been invited to Capitol Hill and the State Department several times 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 has written extensively on Islam, human rights, democracy, Middle East politics, and Bosnia. InFocus News interviewed him about the recent elections in Egypt.
IFN: Thank you for joining us, Dr.Hathout. You have a personal investment in Egypt. Can you tell us a little bit about where you grew up?
I was born and raised in Cairo. I graduated from the school of medicine there.Starting in 1948, I started to become aware of what was going on around me. I became fully aware when my brother, Hassan, volunteered to go to Palestine (before the Nakba). I started following the news and eventually became involved. When I was in high school, I was very involved in a student movement that stood against dictatorship and promoted democracy in Egypt. I was allied with many student groups, one of which is the Ikhan al-Muslimeen (the Muslim Brotherhood). That struggle has continued for me until now. My every fiber is against dictatorship and oppression. This is how I discovered Islam. I studied Islam and every step confirmed to me that this was the right path.
IFN: You were involved in the Muslim Brotherhood. What was your history with them like?
At that time, I had a limited perspective. I saw a movement of liberation against dictatorship, and against British imperialism, and against the Zionist state of Israel. Then I discovered this was not for me; I could not receive orders, be obedient, and conform to what the group wanted. I am a maverick - an odd-ball. My personality did not fit. I eventually took my own path, and when I came to America I tried to do what God wanted from me. This has not changed me much. I believe in peace. I cherish the polarity and diversity in humans, ideas and religions because I believe this is the will of God and should be respected. I believe Islam was not sent for Muslims, it was sent for humanity. The carriers of Islam should be aware of this, or they should quit. This is what I believe until now, with my successes and failures, whatever comes with life. I have been in the United States for forty years
IFN: What are your thoughts on the Egyptian revolution?
I was very excited. I had a sense that we (my generation)started that. The starting call is not what we see now, it is 1954 in Abedin Square, which is where I was at that time.It is exactly the same image [as Tahrir] but on a smaller square. We were in front of the President’s Palace and trying to topple the dictator peacefully. I felt a sense of ownership even though I am far, and I was very excited following every step that has happened.
IFN: How did you feel about the elections in Egypt?
There are no perfect elections anywhere in the world. For Egypt, I think this is the best elections that could have been in terms of accessibility of information and in terms of transparency. I was shocked by the final choices that we were left with. It was either military dictatorship or what could be a theocracy with religious dictatorship. I am very worried about that. My hope is that President Morsi will prove to us, and to the world, and to history, that Islam is for a civic, progressive government, ruled by a constitution made by human beings,which provides equal rights to everyone regardless of gender, race or religion. If he can make that happen, I will probably be the happiest person in the world. If he does not, I will be the most disappointed person in the world.
IFN: President Morsi went to the University of Southern California (USC) and lived in Los Angeles for a time. Have you met him?
I have been asked this multiple times, but I have said no each time. Recently,someone told me that they came to my house with him a few times in the 1990s, but I don’t remember this. So, I do not know him.
IFN: There are people who are concerned with the Muslim Brotherhood taking power. How do you feel about this?
I think people are really concerned. The two categories of people I I talk to are people that support him and people that don’t support him but don’t oppose him. Everyone has the same concern: will Egypt be a civic state or will it be an oppressive rule under the banner of Islam? In modern history, those who raised the banner of Islam did not, in my humble understanding, represent the spirit of Islam. I am talking specifically about the Taliban, Sudan, Iran, Saudia Arabia. The more they talk about Islam, the more the rights of people are trashed.
IFN: What are your hopes for Egypt?
I really hope for a real democracy where there is a free marketplace of ideas and ideologies, because I know the true Islamic ideology will shine. We will win the day!
(ANAHEIM, CA) -- “A Summer Night for Civil Rights,” held by the Greater Los Angeles Area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations on June 23 to celebrate civil liberties achievements and uplift the Southern California Muslim community, was a success. Close to 500 people turned out for an evening of comedy, hip-hop and spoken word. Comedian Dean Obeidallah kept the crowds laughing with his takes on different Muslim countries’ customs and rituals, the cross-generational understanding of comedy among Muslims, and daily life experiences of Muslim Americans.
Hip-hop artist Omar Offendum engaged the audience by encouraging them to sing along to his songs, “Damascus,” and “Street Called Straight.” Offendum ended his segment with his new single “#SYRIA,” getting the crowd out of their seats and singing with his calls for peace and freedom.
Amir Sulaiman entertained audiences with spoken word on the importance of holding on to faith and social issues impacting the Muslim community. Sulaiman also performed selections from his new album, “Meccan Openings,” with a live three-piece band. A special favorite of the crowd were local stand-up comedian Sammy Obeid and the young spoken word talents performing as part of the “Community Showcase” - Suraya Mahumed and Hamza Siddiqui.
The event was emceed by Zahra Billoo, executive director of CAIR-San Francisco Bay Area. CAIR-LA Executive Director Hussam Ayloush gave a short update on various CAIR-LA projects. “’A Summer Night for Civil Rights’ is a unique opportunity for American Muslims to reaffirm their commitment to upholding the civil rights of all Americans through a fun, lively evening filled with uplifting entertainment,” said Ayloush in a statement. Ayloush also unveiled a new campaign, “Champions of Justice” at the event. The goal of the campaign is to sustain CAIR’s daily work by building a permanent base of monthly donors who can automatically donate.Fifty people became Champions of Justice at “A Summer Night for Civil Rights.”
(ANAHEIM, CA) -- Could you live as a refugee? Flee from terror, war, political oppression with no family or friends to welcome or support you when you arrive to your final destination?
Refugees from all over the world continue to resettle in other regions for safety. Refugees are misinformed about what to expect before coming to America. It is reported that every minute eight people are forced to flee war, persecution or terror. The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) has identified that of the 27 million refugees in the world, 80% are women and their dependent children. American media outlets illuminate the freedoms and luxuries of living the American dream. The reality is that these first generation refugee families struggle with adjusting to living circumstances they face on a day to day basis such as: unemployment, lack of affordable housing and transportation, language barriers to receive social and public services; keeping many of them isolated, financially insecure, confused and unhopeful. The United Nations defines a refugee as a person who owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.
Refugees have no sign written on their foreheads that address where they have been or what they have been through. They are our neighbors, coworkers, community members and brothers and sisters in humanity that have a different story to tell about life then the rest of us. Immigrants who choose to migrate to the United States usually accompany family members, utilizing their resources and they have their relatives awaiting them at the airport. Refugees do not choose to be refugees. They are forced out of their homes and expected to learn on their own how to survive without the comfort of the familiar, traveling alone-awaiting the unknown. They find that they expected to resettle in the United States without adequate financial and social support. The influx of refugees coming from the Middle East has found their way through the neighborhoods of Anaheim, where many of them have resettled in the last year. Within the last year, Orange County alone has received over two thousand refugees who have come from Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Egypt, Somalia, Cuba and other parts of the world, seeking a new beginning and employment opportunities with the hopes of a better future.
This is the story we know of them, however,they have another story to tell; a story of triumph in the face of adversity, a story that is worth celebrating. On June 20th 2012, the Refugee Forum of Orange County organized a special event to celebrate and welcome refugees’ resilience and courage in resettling in Orange County. The city of Anaheim co-sponsored the memorable event and recognized the United Nation’s annual “World Refugee Day”.
The Refugee Forum of Orange County, founded in 1976, is an umbrella group of organizations and individuals who work with refugees to assist with their successful resettlement in Orange County. In an effort to address the needs and concerns of the growing refugee population in Orange County, Refugee Forum of OC is a collaborative effort with social services, public and non-profit agencies who work to support and advocate for the successful resettlement of refugees in Orange County. Services are designed to help refugees become self-sufficient in order to become contributing citizens to Orange County. The Forum is made up of organizations like World Relief, Access California Services, the Red Cross, and many other refugee service providers. This inspiring event exhibited at the Pearson Park Amphitheatre in Anaheim celebrated the refugees ‘pursuit to live safely in a land where they do neither speak the language nor understand the culture but thrive nonetheless.
Over 600 attendees including Iraqi, Cuban, Iranian, Burmese, Vietnamese, Afghani refugees provided musical performances, storytelling and were awarded for their courage, spirit, leadership and contributions to the fabric of the United States. Nahla Kayali, Executive Director of Access California Services and Chair of the Refugee Forum provided the opening remarks along with City of Anaheim, Mayor Tom Tait, City Council Members Lorri Galloway, Gail Eastman, and Kris Murray. They all spoke of the importance of the collaboration and support needed to advocate and adequately support the needs of refugees in their neighborhoods and communities. Dr. Michael Riley, Orange County Social Services Director, delivered the keynote speech explaining Orange County Social Services’ role in providing refugee employment support services in partnership with Access California Services to assist the refugees in working towards a successful transition and adjustment in their resettlement.
Rida Hamida, Secretary of the Refugee Forum of Orange County and lead organizer of the World Refugee Day event highlighted that purpose of World Refugee Day was to engage the community at large and collectively appreciate the refugees’ stories, talents, culture, food and their accomplishments in the face of their daily hardship.
The night included free Starbucks coffee, snow cones, popcorn, cotton candy and a delicious multi ethnic dinner served by neighouring community restaurants. The evening ended with the City of Anaheim’s Chief Welter recruiting members from the audience to sing the famous Michael Jackson song, “We are the World” on stage. Anaheim City Council member, Kris Murray, acknowledged that many of the refugee residents of Anaheim resettled here because they were forced out of their homes due to displacement, war, climate change and fear. She further stated that refugees do not choose to be refugees; they do not choose to leave their homes and restart their lives but that they are courageous in their mission to live in safety. Refugees resettling in Anaheim and Orange County are proving to be resilient, courageous, and determined to continue to survive without their family and friends due to many service providers like Access California Services, a social service non-profit dedicated to empowering refugees in acculturation, employment services, transportation, English language learning to ensure adequate resources and tools are provided for the refugees resettling in Orange County. For more information about how to take part in empowering and supporting refugees in your community, please contact, Access California Services at 714-917-0440.