American Muslim Dr. Maher Hathout, Dies at 79

Dr Maher Hathout

American Muslim leader and interfaith activist, Dr. Maher Hathout, has died at 79.

World-recognized interfaith crusader, American Islamic leader, and feminist Dr. Maher Hathout, has passed away. He was 79. The renowned Maher Hathout died on Friday, January 2, 2015, after being diagnosed with liver cancer in December 2013, leaving behind a legacy of rare leadership and remarkable accomplishments within the Islamic community and beyond.

In the early 1970’s, Dr. Maher Hathout moved to Los Angeles – where he worked as a cardiologist and director of a small Islamic center – after leaving Buffalo, New York, where he stayed briefly after he first migrated to the US. Prior to arriving in America, Hathout was born and raised in an Islamic setting in Cairo, Egypt, where he was born on January 1, 1936. He received most of his education in Egypt, finishing medical school, where he is believed to have adapted his critical views on religion, having actively engaging in and contributing to youth politics.

During Hathout’s college days, he was heavily opposed to the ruling military government that was generally perceived by the masses as being oppressive at the time, leading a wave of protests that landed him in jail in the 1950’s. As resilient as he was, young Hathout remained unfazed during his jail time. He used the long stretch of quiet time that his incarceration afforded him, to build-up and refine a theological perspective that married traditional Islamic doctrine with a modern global outlook.

After Dr. Hathout was released from prison, having finished medical school, he moved to America, where he started out his interfaith movement, by first heading a small but growing congregation of Muslims at the Islamic Center, which became one of the nation’s most influential mosques.

Other notable organizations he has helped found include the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC); an advocacy group based in Los Angeles and Washington that promotes civil rights of American Muslims, as well as works to harmonize Islam and other religions; and New Horizon, one of the area’s first Islamic-oriented private schools. He also belonged to the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California, where he served as Chairman. Hathout also helped found the Religious Coalition Against War in the Middle East in 1991. He was a charter member of the Pacific Council on International Policy, as well as served on the Board of Directors of the Interfaith Alliance and Claremont Lincoln University.

Throughout his career, Dr. Hathout displayed admirable courage and impartiality, as he spoke against some views that radical Muslims held up, not minding the reaction from his constituents.

Rev. George Regas, former pastor at All Saints Episcopal church, called Dr. Maher Hathout “a voice of moderation.” Regas continued praising Hathout as the “strongest voice speaking out against what the terrorists were trying to say. He stood up and said radicalism of all stripes is [a] dangerous, destructive type of thinking.”

In his lifetime he was recognized by Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton whom he spoke to about improving America’s relationship with the Muslim World. Moreoover, Dr. Maher Hathout has received many accolades and awards for his unmatched service to humanity. In 2006 he earned the LA County Human Relations Commission Humanitarian Award. When he he was nominated, it was amidst heavy criticisms from some Jewish Leaders, who accused Hathout of making harsh comments, referring to Israel as a “theocracy” and “apartheid state.” Even in the face of the mounting controversy, Hathout went on to win the John Allen Buggs award from the county commission, even though some key members boycotted the voting session and show altogether.

Hathout died over the weekend as a result of his liver cancer at the City of Hope hospital in Duarte.

He is survived by his wife, Ragaa; his son, Gasser; his daughter, Samer Hathout-Blackshire: and four grandchildren.

A funeral was held for Dr. Maher Hathout at Rose Hills Memorial Park in Whittier.

MPAC will broadcast a live memorial service on YouTube on Saturday, January 10 at 1 p.m. PST.


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