For two weeks every year, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe holds what it refers to as the world’s largest human rights and democracy conference, called the Human Dimension Implementation Meeting. Organized by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, this year’s meeting is taking place in Warsaw, and it began last week. Special attention is focused this year on freedom of religion and belief, the rights of Roma (formerly called gypsies) women and the rights of national minorities in OSCE countries.
The head of the U.S. delegation to the conference this year is Ambassador Avis Bohlen, a retired foreign service officer whose career included serving as Ambassador to Bulgaria from 1996 – 1999.
There are three public members of the U.S. delegation. Nida Gelazis, of the Woodrow Wilson Center, is a scholar of international human rights, international law and citizenship policies and protection of national minorities.
Dr. Ethel Brooks, professor of sociology at Rutgers University, is the second representative of the U.S. at the conference. Brooks has published many articles on her research areas which include child labor in third world countries, globalization and political economies.
The third public member chosen to attend the human rights conference as a representative of the U.S. is Salam Al-Marayati, president of the Muslim Public Affairs Council.
While two out of three of the U.S. representatives are scholars whose fields suggest expertise in human rights and democratization, and are entirely consistent with the themes of the OSCE and, specifically, human rights and democracy, Al-Marayati’s appointment raises serious questions.
Counter-terrorism expert Steve Emerson told The Jewish Press that
Al-Marayati’s appointment is not just scandalous but also does incalculable damage to our values as a nation whose core principles categorically reject the legitimization of a racist supporter of terrorism, and an incendiary proponent of paranoid conspiracies that provides the motivation for radical Muslims to carry out terrorism.
Al-Marayati is not a scholar. His only graduate degree is in business and his undergraduate degree is in science. He has been involved with MPAC since its founding in 1986. Without any scholarly article to his credit, his expertise is in matters concerning the role of Islam and Muslims in America and elsewhere.
In fact, Al-Marayati is better known, at least to members of the American Jewish community, for his defense of those who are on the scrutiny end of the human rights examining lens. Perhaps his most infamous statement was during a radio interview immediately following the attacks by Muslim terrorists against the United States on September 11, 2001.
On that day, as the buildings were still smoldering, Al-Marayati told radio interviewer Warren Olney on KCEW-FM’s “Which Way, LA?” in response to questions about who might be behind the terrorist attacks,
If we’re going to look at suspects, we should look to groups that benefit the most from these kinds of incidents, and I think we should put the state of Israel on this list because I think this diverts attention from what’s happening in the Palestinian territories so that they can go on with their aggression and occupation and apartheid policies.
While Al-Marayati is generally more in control about publicly expressing his views regarding Israel and comporting himself in an even-keeled manner when with civic and political leaders, there have been many other instances in which his support for Muslims seems to override his concern for the human rights and safety of others.
For example, at a 2005 conference held by the Islamic Society of North America, Al-Marayati told his fellow Muslims not to respond to requests from the FBI to work with them, saying, “we reject any efforts, notion, suggestion that Muslims should start spying on one another.”
Even as he publicly engages in many interfaith efforts, Al-Marayati continues to sow the seeds of division between religious groups. In 2009 he spoke at a J Street conference, telling the audience of “Palestine Now At Any Price” liberals that the absence of a Palestinian State was the major cause for Muslim unrest in Pakistan, and that it was “the central issue critical to the hearts and minds of all 1.5 billion Muslims worldwide.”
Al-Marayati spoke before the OSCE conference on Tuesday, October 1, about the situation of Muslims as a religious minority in America. He quoted President Obama’s 2009 Cairo speech, in which he said, “‘it is important for Western countries to avoid impeding Muslim citizens from practicing religion as they see fit – for instance, by dictating what clothes a Muslim woman should wear,'” and called for “governments to ‘stop targeting Muslims through legislation or policy, and instead enshrine the ground of religion or belief as a prohibited ground of discrimination in all realms.”
When asked to comment about Al-Marayati’s appointment to represent the United States at a global human rights and democracy conference, Steve Emerson, one of the premier counter-terrorism experts, and someone who has conducted extensive research into Al-Marayati’s background, told The Jewish Press,
For this administration to appoint to an august human rights organization Salam Al-Marayati, who has openly supported Hizbollah, claimed that the FBI has illegally incited Muslims on terrorism charges because of FBI sanctioned policies of “racial profiling,” has defended as innocent the most notorious members of Hamas who were found guilty of laundering millions of dollars to a terrorist group, and someone who has complained of ‘having the Holocaust shoved down [his] throat,’ is an outrage.
Emerson suggested that the appointment of Al-Marayati as a representative of the U.S. at one of the world’s largest human rights conference,
cries out for a congressional investigation of the larger and more heinous scandal of the unprecedented degree to which the Obama administration has embraced and collaborated with radical Muslim groups in the U.S. whose lineage derives directly from the world wide totalitarian Muslim Brotherhood movement.
The conference concludes at the end of this week.
Ambassador Bohlen did not respond to a request for comment by the Jewish Press.
Lori Lowenthal Marcus