Muslim/Arab Organizations Stand Fast for Marayati

Friday's withdrawal of Salam Al-Marayati's appointment as the sole Muslim to the National Commission on Terrorism was condemned Monday in a joint press release by nine American Arab and Muslim advocacy groups. Marayati, who heads the Los Angeles-based Muslim Public Affairs Council, found himself barred from serving on the 10-member commission when Congressman Richard Gephardt (D-MO) withdrew the appointment. While Gephardt claims he cancelled the appointment because Marayati would not be able to attain a security clearance in a quick enough time frame, Arab and Muslim groups allege that the congressman bowed to pro-Israel pressure groups that campaigned to block Marayati's appointment.

The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) first released a list of Marayati's alleged anti-Israel and pro-terrorist statements on June 24. The ZOA subsequently wrote a letter to Gephardt and promptly involved other pro-Israel organizations in a campaign to have Marayati removed from the committee. In a July 9 ZOA press release applauding Gephardt's decision, ZOA president Morton A. Klein said that Marayati "justifies Arab terrorism and accuses America of being the real terrorists." Klein went on to compare Marayati to David Duke and asserted that people such as Marayati should be "condemned and relegated to the margins of society, not granted credibility by being given government appointments and meetings at the White House." While Klein criticized Gephardt for not making the real reason for the withdrawal "crystal clear," aides to Gephardt, according to a July 13 Washington Post report, insisted the House minority leader was not acting in response to Zionist pressure.

But nine Arab/Muslim groups alleged Monday that Gephardt was bowing to Zionist pressure in blocking an appointee simply because he did not have pro-Israel political leanings. The American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), American Muslim Alliance (AMA), American Muslim Council (AMC), American Muslim Foundation (AMF), American Task Force for Lebanon (ATFL), Arab American Institute (AAI), Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), Muslim Public Affairs Committee (MPAC) and National Association of Arab Americans (NAAA) all joined together to call for Marayati's reinstatement.

Monday's press release said in part that Marayati had been "falsely accused" by Zionist pressure groups and that he should be reinstated on the basis of his "outstanding credentials and wide support [he] received even from Jewish and other interfaith leaders." Responding to Gephardt's use of the security clearance issue in defense of his decision, the Muslim and Arab organizations said that other members of the commission were also in need of similar clearance and have obtained it. The groups questioned the timing of the concern over the clearance issue, noting that it could have been dealt with earlier.

The press release also said that Marayati was barred for not passing the pro-Israel "litmus test" and equated his ouster with McCarthy era tactics to discredit and marginalize opponents based on their political ideologies.

While editorials in the New York Daily News (June 29) and the New York Post (June 30) were critical of Marayati's appointment, other major papers condemned Gephardt's decision. A July 12 editorial in the Los Angeles Times called Gephardt's decision a "retreat" that was "craven and grossly unfair." According to a July 10 article in the LATimes, several moderate Jewish and Christian leaders in the Los Angeles area have called for Marayati's reinstatement. And one Rabbi called Gephardt's decision and the pressure exerted on him by Zionist groups an "appalling display of ignorance, mindlessness and arrogance."

ADC Media Director Hussein Ibish told Wednesday, "We would hope that Gephardt would see the light and reinstate Marayati." Ibish said that anything less than Marayati's reinstatement would be "kowtowing to character assassination, lies and blackmail," and that the commission "must have Marayati" if it is to be effective.

Also speaking to Wednesday, CAIR National Communications Director, Ibrahim Hooper, said that he sees the situation as having larger implications in raising "an issue that has been under the surface for a long time." Hooper also said that the Zionist minority in America has worked for the "exclusion of the Muslim voice" in the quest for a "monopoly" [presumably] of public opinion concerning Israel. With reference to this, Ibish said that the controversy surrounding Marayati reveals that this "monopoly is being challenged" and that the Zionist campaign against Marayati was a "last ditch effort" in maintaining it.

For now the strategy of Muslim and Arab advocacy groups seems to be to stand behind Marayati. But the Washington Post on July 13 quotes Gephardt's spokeswoman Sue Harvey as saying the congressman was "looking for someone" to replace Marayati. CAIR's Hooper warns that this is a very real possibility, despite the lack of suitable candidates to fill Marayati's shoes. Hooper says any new candidate would likely be Muslim or Arab, especially in light of the media attention given to Marayati's withdrawal. But he predicts the possibility of a token being installed merely to calm the protests by the Muslim and Arab community.

But even if Marayati is not reinstated, it is apparent the response to Gephardt's action has already done much to both discredit extreme Zionist organizations and to bolster the case for Muslim political empowerment. Speaking with regard to the Zionist campaign, Los Angeles Rabbi Leonard Beerman was quoted by the LATimes on July 10 as saying, "In an attempt to dishonor a good man, I think these organizations have dishonored themselves."

With a Muslim or Arab as a likely appointee for the National Commission on Terrorism and with Zionist groups seemingly discredited for what appears to be a blatant attack on a man's religion and ethnicity, the Muslim and Arab community in America stands to benefit from Gephardt's hasty decision. And as a result of the political martyrdom of Marayati, Muslim and Arab groups have had the opportunity to effectively assert their voices in the public sphere. For Zionist pressure groups in America that is a heavy blow.

Zakariya Wright is a staff writer at

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