A Call for Jewish Genocide in Davis, California? Meh.

By Susan George

On July 21, 2017, Imam Ammar Shahin delivered a sermon at the Islamic Center of Davis, California. In it he cited the hadith, according to which the Muslims would fight the Jews on Judgment Day, and prayed to Allah to “liberate the Al-Aqsa Mosque from the filth of the Jews” and to “annihilate them down to the very last one,” not sparing any of them. “Oh Allah, make this happen by our hands. Let us play a part in this,” he prayed in the sermon.

Initially, the Davis Islamic Center attempted to divert attention away from the actual content of Shahin’s words and instead blamed the messenger saying that the imam’s comments had been taken out of context by “Islamophobic news organizations.” When it became clear this was not the case, the imam issued a half-hearted apology with no pressure to resign.

In what day and age do we live that an influential religious leader and educator can preach hate and genocide from his pulpit located only a few feet away from a major university? Many who wanted a stronger response were silenced. That is, until the Davis City Council meeting on September 12 where supporters stood in solidarity and spoke against Shahin’s hateful words and the woefully inadequate response. I too had the opportunity to address the council:

Mayor, City Council Members

I chose to come and speak here today because I am deeply concerned with the normalization of Jew hatred that is taking place in our local communities, our state, our country, our world in fact, and on BOTH sides of the political spectrum.

Make no mistake, if a religious leader from the Christian community walked up to his pulpit and spoke of all black and brown people as filth and that we need to find them and murder them, the condemnation would be swift and unambiguous. Hundreds if not thousands of people would show up to protest. Social media would be flooded and they would demand that this “holy man” be fired from his position. I have no doubt of that. And this would be the right thing to do, given the gravity of his inciting and hateful words. Naturally, Jews and Muslims would be included in this configuration of hate as well.

This would not stand nor should it, period!

But somehow when it comes to antisemitism, the response is often akin to “meh”, minimization, obfuscation and excuses. “Imam Shahin didn’t really say that, did he?” “Oh, he was just speaking figuratively, not literally.” “He is only quoting scripture, he doesn’t really mean that himself.” Then, I would be accused of being reactionary, of misinterpreting his words and would likely be called an Islamaphobe.

In fact, this IS what happened to me.

The truth is, what Imam Shahin said and did harms not only the Jewish community, it also puts Muslims at risk because it satisfies the worst stereotypes of hateful people who are just looking for something to attack. And after what happened in Charlottesville if anyone doubts this, then you’re not listening.

I watched with interest every public response to Imam Shahin’s words of mass murder that I could find. The best way to describe what happened was that excuses were made on his behalf, he was insulated, protected, and treated with kid gloves. His apology fell far, far short.

Instead, he should have profusely apologized and immediately resigned and then taken time to honestly contemplate the seriousness of his actions.

It is not too late for this community to reflect and take a different course of action that sends the required message that this kind of hate will NEVER be tolerated.

At this time when hate crimes against both Jews and Muslims are at all time highs, we are counting on you Davis. Your community, state, country and your world are counting on you too.

Susan George is an activist, budding playwright, and political junkie. She currently serves as an Assembly District Delegate to the California Democratic Party and was a delegate for Bernie Sanders to the Democratic National Convention in 2016. She lives in Vallejo, California in the beautiful San Francisco Bay Area with her partner Matthew and dog Lenny.



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Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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30 thoughts on “A Call for Jewish Genocide in Davis, California? Meh.”

  1. Jim Hoch

    “Your community, state, country and your world are counting on you too.” Well they will be disappointed. We should decline the opportunity to be the latest outpost of global religious warfare.

     

    Thank you for thinking of us now go back to Vallejo.

        1. Matthew Finkelstein

          If this were just a local issue Jim I’m sure you’d be right but when the leadership of the largest regional Islamic Center is making open calls for genocide and the leadership in Davis simply rolls over. . . well your right to neglect that situation went right out the window along with your common decency. Next time people go calling out for the genocide of your family I’m sure locality won’t feature first in your consideration.

        2. Jim Hoch

          “If this were just a local issue” The point is that this is NOT a local issue and we should NOT seek to make it one. Now go away and find another Volunteer.

        3. Howard P

          Matthew is right, Jim… since the address was posted on the internet (up to today), 5,000 Jews in the US have been murdered for ethnic reasons, and all the perpetrators cited the Imam of Davis, the largest regional mosque, as their inspiration…

          or, maybe the ‘5’ should have been a zero….

        4. Alan Miller

          5,000 Jews in the US have been murdered for ethnic reasons, and all the perpetrators cited the Imam of Davis, the largest regional mosque, as their inspiration.  5,000 Jews in the US have been murdered for ethnic reasons, and all the perpetrators cited the Imam of Davis, the largest regional mosque, as their inspiration…

          You use the citing of the fact no one has been murdered as justification for minimization of the words spoken?  Would you similarly justify the calling for the genocide of Race X by the leader of Religion Y because no one from Race X has been murdered (yet)?

    1. Alan Miller

      JH, if a religious leader in Vallejo called for the genocide of the Tribe, I would hope the citizens of Vallejo would allow me to speak.  Maybe you hadn’t noticed, but genocide crosses city lines.

      Do I think our Council should get involved in international issues, such as this?  Absolutely not.  The Imam has spoken.  We heard you.  Do I think outside forces should tell a religious congregation to dump their leader?  Absolutely not.  Well . . . they can’t.  Apply pressure?  Sure, have at it if you wish.

      Absolutely if someone is going to take up their Tuesday night to address our city on the threat of genocide, we can pay them a respectable listen. I don’t care if they are from the Moon.

      Which makes me wonder . . . are there Jews on the Moon?

      1. Jim Hoch

        They can protest all they want and they should IMO. However the author was one of those calling for the CC to take action. I agree with you that the CC should stay out of this.

        1. Don Shor

          I think that the leadership of the local Muslim and Jewish communities should work this out between them in a manner that is acceptable to most of their members, and that is what appears to be happening.

        2. Alan Miller

          I think that the leadership of the local Muslim and Jewish communities should work this out between them in a manner that is acceptable to most of their members, and that is what appears to be happening.

          That would make any sense at all if membership at the local religious organizations was like citizenship in a country.  In fact, very few of the numerous Jews I know in town go to the local congregation, and few consider ourselves religiously Jewish — yet antisemitism is an evil that threatens all Jews.  The one Muslim I know well doesn’t go to the local mosque, and others I know from the Middle East who don’t identify as Muslim also of course don’t go, but we all suffer from the evil of divisive/hateful/genocidal speech.

          Members from a couple of religious organizations getting together doesn’t solve evil speech.  And even in the organizations, well the congregation anyhow, there are complete political splits.  I know little to nothing of the politics of the mosque, but among Jews is  the saying, “Put two Jews in a room and you get three opinions”.

          So how do organizations that don’t represent but a fraction of all that are affected, and disagree internally, “solve” divisive/hateful/genocidal speech?

      2. Howard P

        I strongly suspect Islam is like Judaism and Protestantism… .  They “call” their leaders, and can dismiss them… still, it should be an internal matter, and not one imposed by any branch of ‘the state’… think I’m agreeing with Alan… not sure…

        Yet outrage toward an individual ‘in power’ and their words, is appropriate… telling others what they “have to” do about it, not so much…

        And yes, have heard some Jews (roomed with one for a year) express the desire to irradicate all Moslems… hatred has many faces… hatred is bad and should be rejected, strongly, whenever it raises its head (it is poisonous all around)…  I for one, hate everyone who hates… as Pogo might say, “we have met the enemy and it is us”.   We need to ‘grow’ as a species…

        Genocide should not be considered an “option”… and certainly not a goal…

        1. Susan George

          For you to equivocate a bigoted idiot former roommate of  yours spewing hatred in college with an imam and educator of college students preaching a call to genocide from his pulpit to throngs of silent people and then the leadership of the mosque tries to first deny his words is the height of ignorance. This video call to violence went all over the world. Well beyond your local community. But keep trying to convince yourself that you all have it under control.

  2. Alan Miller

    The truth is, what Imam Shahin said and did harms not only the Jewish community, it also puts Muslims at risk because it satisfies the worst stereotypes of hateful people who are just looking for something to attack.

    This may be the most important point SG makes, yet no one has mentioned it that I have heard.  Those harmed by the Imam’s words are not just Jews, but all Muslims that don’t agree with what he said, who are now looked upon with greater suspicion by many.  No apology, even a real one, will completely erase the damage done.

  3. Susan George

    I share this from a member of the Davis community that has been shut out. After the hatred and call to violence spewed by the imam, no one should then have to undergo this, ever.

    “I live in Davis. I have been struggling with this situation beyond words since it occurred. I have been told that by not simply accepting his apology and moving on, I am being divisive. I have been told that I do not believe in restorative justice. I have been told that I didn’t understand the imam’s intent. I have been told more excuses by progressives in the community than I care to count. I think the Davis community places such a high premium on interfaith connection, that the community/religious leaders were terrified of “making waves” (thus the ridiculous apology video about feelings with a nice photo op at the end). Thank you for what you said. Your letter is fantastic. I hope they listen.”

  4. Claire Benoit

    I think people are really taking his dramatic and impassioned sermon… out of context

    it sounds to me like an inspired religious leader who is directly connected to an ongoing war with deep complex history. The Jews over there are no more innocent than the muslims. These people have been at war for a long time

    his sermon really isn’t so different than a Christian US soldier speaking immediately after 9/11 attacks or a charismatic Christian preaching that everyone EXCEPT Christians of THEIR sect will be suffer an endless hell. There is only one christian church that does not have a hate ridden doomsday afterlife – and it’s not considered “mainstream” Christianity.

    If/when their war ends – I think his sermon might be different. People condemning this man aren’t really understanding context and perspective

  5. Claire Benoit

    It’s funny to me how people cherry pick what to label as a threat…

    this guy is being crucified for giving a basic sermon relevant to the background of his congregation in the protected privacy of their church…

    a few months ago some white Americans were compared to nazis with their exercise of free (albeit ugly) speech being likened to human experimentation and genocide…

    yet I just saw a video of a black panther telling people to go out and kill white… CHILDREN. And he’s featured in beyonces “wonderful” new track for… black empowerment (?). Ok, makes sense. Lol 😝

    Maybe im the biggest idiot alive – I can accept the possibility. But it sure seems like this world is filled with fools on autopilot.

    1. Howard P

      You clearly don’t understand the referent to “crucify”, in the original context… so have to assume you mean a watered down/sanitized version… and it was the ‘pagan’ Romans who were “into that”… not the Jews…

      “Black Panthers”?  Do you mean, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Black_Panther_Party

      Cites as to what you have seen might be useful for whatever point you were trying to make…

       

    2. Alan Miller

      It’s funny to me how people cherry pick what to label as a threat…

      Such as talk of genocide.

      this guy is being crucified for giving a basic sermon relevant to the background of his congregation in the protected privacy of their church…

      and then posted on the internet . . .  a “basic sermon”? . . . “relevant to the background of his congregation”?  You seem to be minimizing the words spoken for reasons not at all clear to me.

       

    1. David Greenwald

      My experience is that your hardball tactics here are unlikely to be successful and in fact are more likely to dig people in against your position.   Is that your goal or are you somehow wishing to sway people to your side?  This is a serious question.

      1. Alan Miller

        My experience is that your hardball tactics here are unlikely to be successful and in fact are more likely to dig people in against your position.

        What are you talking about?

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