US & World

Muslim advocacy group to host interfaith 'xenophobia' discussion in wake of Paris attacks

A man reads the Koran ahead of Friday afternoon prayer at the King Fahad Mosque in Culver City.
A man reads the Koran ahead of Friday afternoon prayer at the King Fahad Mosque in Culver City.
Benjamin Brayfield/KPCC
A man reads the Koran ahead of Friday afternoon prayer at the King Fahad Mosque in Culver City.
His Grace Bishop Serapion, Bishop of the Diocese of Los Angeles, left and late Muslim Public Affairs Council Senior Adviser Maher Hathout at Los Angeles City Hall

In light of some Americans’ mistrust and fear of Muslims following extremist attacks, the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) will host a discussion Sunday, titled “Overcoming Xenophobia: Lessons from the Catholic, Mormon & Jewish Experiences.”

“Instead of just talking about discrimination and harassment from bullying and other form of xenophobia we thought we would bring Jewish, Catholic and Mormon leaders to talk about their communities’ history in dealing with xenophobia and learn lessons from those historical experiences,” MPAC President Salam Al-Marayati told KPCC.

The Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), founded in 1988, bills itself as a non-profit advocacy group dedicated to improving public understanding and policies that impact American Muslims by engaging government, media and communities.

MPAC has hosted similar talks in the past and planned Sunday’s talk months before the recent Paris attacks occurred.

“The framework of the discussion hasn’t changed but the circumstances have,” said Al-Marayati. “So we will have real scenarios and we will be living our conversations in terms of how we’ve been dealing with these issues in the past week.”

Al-Marayati believes a lot of tensions and conflict arises from a narrative that there are religious wars or religious and cultural divides in the world.

“Today, a sizable population of Americans are questioning American Muslims' allegiance to America and engaging in Islamophobia,” Al-Marayati said in a statement about the event.

He told KPCC there are also images and perceptions coming from the Muslim community about others and there is “definitely a perception” from other religious communities that Muslims are not doing enough to deal with violent extremism.

“But there is definitely a major problem within our houses of worship with how we view the other,” said Al-Marayati.

MPAC’s previous dialogues have generally been left of center politically, Al- Marayati said, but this one will be different and include a speaker who is heavily involved in the Republican Party.

The interfaith discussion, which is free and open to the public, will include various leaders such as Rabbi Sharon Brous, Founding Rabbi of IKAR; Dr. Larry Eastland Chairman of the Widtsoe Foundation; Dr. Sadegh Namazikhah, Member of IMAN Board of Trustees; Rev. Thomas P. Rausch S.J., Ph.D. Professor of Catholic Theology at Loyola Marymount Univ.; and Salam Al-Marayati, MPAC President.

“I believe there are going to be many lessons that we can draw from to move the conversation forward,” Al-Marayati said. “Not just talk about discrimination but talk about how we can build stronger relations along religious and cultural lines and how we can talk about the issues that create misapprehension on all sides.”

The discussion, “Overcoming Xenophobia: Lessons from the Catholic, Mormon & Jewish Experiences” will take place Sunday Nov. 22, 2:30-5 p.m., at Iman Cultural Center (3376 Motor Ave, Los Angeles, 90034). Attendees can RSVP here