By Michael J. ARVIZU
In life, Dr. Maher Hathout made it his life’s work to give the American-Muslim community an identity while preserving the faith and values of Islam. Even as members of the faith continued to face prejudice in the face of terrorism, Hathout strived to teach the community more about the faith.
Now, after his death, dozens of his colleagues gathered Saturday afternoon under rainy skies at Los Angeles City Hall to memorialize the man who worked his entire life to strengthen local Muslims.
Hathout passed away Jan. 3 at the age of 79 after a yearlong battle with cancer.
The Rev. Amy Pringle, pastor of St. George’s Episcopal Church in La Cañada, attended the service, along with roughly 200 people.
Pringle had originally conceived of the idea to hold a local prayer service in light of the terrorist shootings that took place in Paris on Jan. 7 when 12 staff members of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo were shot to death.
“The point of that would have been to show solidarity … and to bring people of all faiths together,” Pringle said of the local service. “And show what unites us is greater than what divides us.”
Instead, she decided to attend Hathout’s service when she realized members of the local Islamic community would be unavailable to attend the local service, as they would be attending the memorial downtown.
Pringle said attending Hathout’s service allowed her to gain more insight into a community leader she knew little about.
“He just did a lot of work to help counteract those misconceptions and exaggerations,” Pringle said of Hathout’s work to combat stigmatizing of Muslims.
One moment in particular at the memorial service stood out for Pringle.
As the service progressed, a steady but light rain began to fall on the people gathered. The slight sprinkles, however, soon gave way to heavy rain. It is this moment that stood out for Pringle, as guests opened up umbrellas and quickly huddled shoulder to shoulder, seemingly taking shelter under the umbrella of their neighbor.
“Instinctively, everyone took a giant step toward the middle,” Pringle recalled with a chuckle. “It was this dispersed throng of people that just suddenly in a moment, just whoosh, went right into the middle. I thought it was such a great symbol of Dr. Hathout’s work. That’s what he had done – brought people together.”
Alluding to the Paris shootings, speakers at Hathout’s memorial service expressed their belief that love, light and goodness would be prevail over any terrorist attacks, Pringle said, ideologies that Hathout stood for.