By Susan Schwartz
TMO Contributing Writer
Los Angeles – Since the death of Dr. Maher Hathout on January 2nd, countless tributes from individuals and organizations have been offered in his memory. Last Saturday, the city of Los Angeles, Dr. Hathout’s hometown, presented a moving tribute to him on the steps of City Hall.
Deputy Chief Michael Downing of the Los Angeles Police Department (and recent MPAC Honoree) thanked Dr. Hathout from a grateful city and police department and told those gathered that he loved hearing Dr. Hathout’s stories. “I needed to memorize his words,” Downing said. He spoke of Dr. Hathout’s belief that America could be a model of reform and remarked, “I have a piece of Dr. Hathout in my soul.” At the conclusion of his remarks, Chief Downing presented an American flag to the seated members of the Dr. Hathout’s family.
Daniel Tam with the Interfaith Dialogue office of Los Angeles Mayor, Eric Garcetti, said that Dr. Hathout had deep roots in Los Angeles and engaged people with respect and love.
“We are standing on his wide shoulders” said Salam Al-Marayati, President of the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC, who also called for a moment of silence for the victims of the recent massacre in Paris.
Al-Marayati spoke of three great achievements of Dr. Hathout that impacted the city of Los Angeles and that form a vibrant part of his legacy: his engagement in Muslim-Jewish dialogue and in publishing a Code of Ethics, signed by 87 people; his work to address disputes between Muslims and his creation of an Intrafaith Code of Honor; and a “Declaration Against Extremism” which he wrote just prior to his death and which has become a teaching guide.
Jihad Turk the former Religious Director of the Islamic Center of Southern California, founded by Dr. Hathout, is now Dean of Bayan Claremont, the nation’s only Islamic Graduate School. Dean Turk told of being approached in the course of his interfaith work by the Dean of Claremont School of Theology, a Christian institution. The latter spoke of partnering with an Islamic Graduate School. At the time there was none. Under the inspiration of Dr. Hathout, one was formed – and Bayan Claremont now offers a degree in Islamic Studies and Leadership.
Other speakers included the actor Mike Farrell, who spoke of his friendship with the late Dr. Hathout and praised his legacy. Members of the Muslim Youth group, which Dr. Hathout established forty years ago, took to the podium and told of his mentorship, his ideals, and his emphasis on justice, love and mercy.
Salam Al Marayati thanked Dr. Hathout’s family for the time they sacrificed so that he might do his work.
His daughter, Samir Hathout, spoke movingly about spending the day with her father as the time of his death neared. She told him that the world would not be the same without him. “It will be better” he replied. “Because the next group will have to take over, and they will do better.”