The Islamic Center of Davis has once again received national media coverage, after a translation of a sermon posted online purports that an Iman’s sermon called for the annihilation of Jews.
The problem is that the video that is available has subtitled translation from Arabic into English. And the group that provided the video, the Middle East Media Research Institute or MEMRI, is considered right wing and anti-Islamic.
According to them, he recites a prayer that calls for the Muslims to fight the Jews on Judgment Day, and prays 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 said.
The English portion is more clear, clearly praying for a day of judgment between Muslims and Jews.
The flashpoint is a policy set by the Israeli government at the Temple Mount, where they installed metal detectors when a terrorist shot and killed two Israeli soldiers earlier this month.
CBS 13 in Sacramento talks to Rabbi Shmary Brownstein and his wife Sorele from the Chabad in Davis.
“He spelled out what he wishes for every Muslim who follows the Quran and the Hadith to follow what the Hadith says which is …find the Jews hiding behind trees and stones and kill them,” said Sorele Brownstein.
“To me, it’s clear this is direct incitement,” said Shmary Brownstein.
On the other hand, Imam Ammar Shahin himself says he was taken out of context, edited and mistranslated by an organization that is “agenda-driven” in order to appear inflammatory.
“It was clear to all who listened to the entire sermon that Imam Shahin was not calling towards anti-Semitism nor towards violence against any religion,” he and the Islamic Center said in a statement Tuesday.
They added, “Rather, he is known for his stance against extremism and his condemnation of un-Islamic groups which promote such views.”
However, as the blowback continues, the Islamic Center released a second statement that apologized to those who were offended by the sermon.
They said, “The ICD will always stand against anti-Semitism similarly to how the Jewish community has always stood against Islamophobia in our close knit community. We have zero tolerance for anti-Semitism or any other form of bigotry.”
Here is the full statement from Imam Shahin and the Islamic Center of Davis:
In light of recent accusations made against Imam Ammar Shahin and the Islamic Center of Davis (ICD), Imam Ammar Shahin and the ICD have issued the following statement:
On July 21st, 2017, Imam Ammar Shahin gave a sermon at the ICD. The sermon was about the horrific events that had recently taken place, and continue to take place, in East Jerusalem. In this sermon, Imam Shahin exercised his first amendment right to protest the illegal closure, occupation, and attacks against Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site for all Muslims.
This illegal closure of the Mosque is in addition to the killing of Muslim worshipers, the injury of many more, including the Imam of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the prevention of worship, and the prevention of the call to prayer at the Mosque. The International community has expressed outrage over the incidents, with the UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People stating at the recent International Conference on Jerusalem that what is happening is against international law.
After this sermon, MEMRI, an agenda driven organization that supports Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land, and other Islamophobic news organizations, accused Imam Shahin and the ICD of anti-Semitism, quoting edited passages of the sermon out of context. In particular, they said that Imam Shahin cited an anti-Semitic prophetic tradition in his sermon.
The tradition in question refers to the theological issue regarding the apocalyptic battle between Jesus and the Antichrist. It says that there will be people from various groups, including Muslims, who will follow the Antichrist, and there will be people who will believe in Jesus and follow him, including Jews and Christians. A battle will take place between these two armies, with the army of Jesus prevailing.
Thus, this prophetic tradition is referring to a battle between good and evil, and not a battle against any particular group as MEMRI would like people to believe. The apocalyptic battle between the Messiah and the Antichrist is something found in all Abrahamic traditions. Imam Shahin’s condemnation was aimed towards those who are taking part in the illegal aggression against the Al-Aqsa Mosque and no one else.
It was clear to all those who listened to the entire sermon that Imam Shahin was not calling towards anti-Semitism nor towards violence against any religion. Rather, he is known for his stance against extremism and his condemnation of un-Islamic groups which promote such views. This has always been the position of the Imam and the ICD.
To clarify how the cut-and-paste tactics of MEMRI twisted what was said, the following is a summary of the sermon:
The sermon was approximately fifty minutes long. The clip that MEMRI circulated was 2 minutes and 19 seconds long, comprised of smaller clips put together out of context. Then they placed a title to the video to reflect the message they wanted to paint Imam Shahin with. The entire sermon was about the theological virtues of the holy site of Al-Aqsa Mosque, which the Jews call Temple Mount.
He then mentioned that closing the holy site of Muslims is a form of oppression, and that God comes to the aid of the oppressed if they return back to their faith.
The Imam also mentioned Jews in a positive context in his sermon. He addressed how God saved the Jews from Pharaoh when they were oppressed yet held on to their religion, similarly, God would relieve the Muslims who are oppressed by the occupying forces in East Jerusalem when they return back to their faith.
This is when Imam Shahin cited the prophetic tradition regarding God giving victory to Jesus and the followers of truth during the apocalyptic war with the Antichrist. When people believe in Jesus as a prophet of God and hold on to the truth, God will support them. This was the purpose of citing the prophetic tradition.
In the context of the full sermon, it becomes clear that the theme of the sermon was against oppression, and not against Jews or any religion. This was clearly explained in the sermon when Imam Ammar said that the battle at the end of time is not specific to Palestine, indicating that the conflict is not with Jews or any specific group of people, but it will be against all evil.
This then makes clear to whom the supplication at the end of the sermon was referring. It was referring to the oppressive occupying forces that closed down one of the holiest sites in the world and attacked worshippers. Moreover, MEMRI also wrongly translates “ahlik” as “annihilate.” Ahlik, in the Arabic language, means destroy, a supplication that is generally used against oppressors. MEMRI’s deliberate and erroneous translation to promote their agenda is unacceptable and aims to portray people of faith against each other.
If MEMRI and company sincerely followed Imam Ammar Shahin’s work and did not just cut and paste what suits their cause, they would have come across the countless lectures and sermons he has given regarding treating all people, especially non-Muslims, with kindness and giving them their full rights, supporting them when they are oppressed.
Never has Imam Shahin called for discrimination or harm of any group of people. These types of claims are expected from an organization like MEMRI which is notorious for its academic dishonesty.
Finally, the ICD welcomes all people to come to our Mosque to find out what we really teach. We have an open-door policy.