On December 11, the Muslim Public Affairs Council is hosting its annual convention. A number of prominent non-Muslim politicians are expected to attend. They will be sharing a platform with a couple of problematic Islamist activists: MPAC official Edina Lekovic and Imam Jihad Saafir.
While at UCLA, Edina Lekovic worked for a publication named Al-Talib. The July 1999 issue, which lists her as managing editor, features Ayatollah Khomeini and Osama bin Laden on the cover celebrating "the spirit of jihad." One article in this issue, written by "Al-Talib staff," states: "When we hear someone refer to the great Mujahid (someone who struggles in Allah's cause) Osama bin Laden as a 'terrorist,' we should defend our brother and refer to him as a freedom fighter." The July 1999 issue was published after the bombings of U.S. embassies in Africa and Bin Laden's declaration of war against the U.S.
Another issue of Al-Talib, also bearing Lekovic's name, alleges that the Holocaust is exaggerated.
Despite all this, MPAC has defended Lekovic from criticism of her work with Al-Talib.
Imam Jihad Saafir, meanwhile, is a prominent extremist cleric. In his sermons, Saafir invokes Shariah law to inform his audience that the punishment for adultery is death by stoning, neither condemning the practice or labeling it an anachronism. On social media, Saafir promotes videos condemning the promotion of homosexuality in public schools, and declares: "Public school is not an option!"
That extremist speakers are included in the MPAC's roster is not particularly surprising. The Muslim Public Affairs Council was founded by individuals with close ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. MPAC founder Maher Hathout described Hezbollah, which has murdered scores of Americans and is dedicated to wiping out Israel, as "fighting to liberate their land and attacking only armed forces. ... This is an American value — freedom and liberty." Salam Al-Marayati, president of MPAC, praised Hezbollah's terrorism as "legitimate resistance," and his organization has argued against the U.S. government's designation of Hamas and Hezbollah as terror groups.
Politicians from across the political spectrum have noted MPAC's extremism. In 1999, the then-House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt (D-MO) withdrew Al-Marayati's appointment to the National Commission on Terrorism after becoming aware of MPAC's history. Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA), meanwhile, criticized MPAC in 2008 when the group protested a hearing meant to ensure that U.S. foreign aid does not end up in the coffers of terrorist-linked organizations.