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Governor Meets With Islamic Representatives

Times Staff Writer

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Monday met privately with a Muslim leader and an Islamic scholar in an effort to address complaints that he has embraced Jewish groups and ignored the other side of the Lebanon-Israel conflict.

Though a participant described the meeting as positive, Shakeel Syed, executive director of the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California, said he was shut out of it even though he had requested it through numerous phone calls and letters.

“This is adding insult to injury,” Syed said.

Over the past two weeks, Syed had denounced the governor for refusing to meet with Islamic groups following a July 23 pro-Israel rally attended by Schwarzenegger and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa in Los Angeles. The mayor subsequently met with several Muslim leaders and apologized for initially ignoring them.

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Two weeks ago, Syed told The Times that the governor’s “continued lack of response will be politically costly.”

His comments were enough to get him excluded from the Monday meeting with Schwarzenegger, the administration said.

“The reason we did not meet with Mr. Syed was it was inappropriate for the governor to meet with someone who uses the media to demand meetings and threaten political retaliation,” said Adam Mendelsohn, communications director for the governor.

Schwarzenegger met with Maher Hathout, chairman of the Islamic Center of Southern California. The second attendee was Khaleel Mohammed, professor of religion at San Diego State University.

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Hathout said the governor’s office requested that the conversation be kept confidential, but that the overall tone was positive.

Syed said he would not give up.

“Their meeting was initiated by me on behalf of our organization, which is a federation of all mosques and [Islamic] organizations,” Syed said, “and to meet with someone else instead of responding to us baffles me. I didn’t even hear from them.”


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