All Saints Church in Pasadena has received dozens of e-mails denouncing its decision to host a conference by the Los Angeles-based Muslim Public Affairs Council – and some have been hateful, said the church’s Reverend Ed Bacon.
“We have begun to receive some of the most vile, mean-spirited e-mail I’ve ever read in my life, talking about All Saints participating in terrorism by being hospitable to Muslims,” Bacon said. According to Bacon, one e-mail said “Islam is satanic garbage.” Another accused the church of “consorting with the enemy.”
Next week, hundreds of Muslims from throughout Southern California are expected to attend MPAC’s annual conference. Council president Salam al-Marayati said non-Muslims are invited as well.
“Holding our convention at a church and inviting a multi-faith audience should be a source of hope and encouragement to the world,” al-Marayati said.
Al-Marayati said MPAC’s decision to gather at a church was a “bold step,” and he denounced “extremists” who accuse his group of being sympathetic to terrorists. Over the years, MPAC has strongly criticized Israel’s treatment of Palestinians and defended Palestinians right to defend themselves, raising the ire of some conservatives.
The Washington D.C.-based Institute on Religion and Democracy is among the groups that have raised concerns about the MPAC conference. “Yet again, the Islamists are taking advantage of naïve Christians with a desire to show off their tolerance,” IRD said on its website. The group has not returned a call for comment, but on its website claims MPAC leaders have made “aggressively anti-Semitic comments.”
Al-Marayati – long a target of some on the right – denies his group is anti-Semitic. MPAC is strongly supported by a number of prominent leaders, including Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca. Its conference speakers have included world-renown evangelical leader Rick Warren of Saddleback Church in Orange County. This year, U.S. Representatives Judy Chu and Mike Honda will speak.
Rev. Bacon also defended MPAC. “They are advocates for moderate Islam,” Bacon said. “I have never found them to cross the line into any extremism.”
Bacon said he’s alerted law enforcement agencies to the e-mails. Al-Marayati said MPAC is considering adding security for the conference, which is scheduled for December 15th.
Both leaders said the conference is important to interfaith dialogue. “To be religious in the 21st century is to be interreligious,” Bacon said. “We all worship the same god and that god in our scriptures calls us to be instruments of peace and reconciliation.”