MEMRI’s Response to Statements by Imam and Islamic Center of Davis


By Steven Stalinsky

The sermon is very anti-Semitic and violent much like many sermons in the mosques of the Middle East.

In the sermon, Imam Ammar Shahin prayed in Arabic: “Oh Allah, count them one by one and annihilate them down to the very last one. Do not spare any of them” and “Oh Allah, liberate the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Oh Allah, make this happen by our hands. Let us play a part in this.”

This part was in Arabic. The rest of the sermon was in English.

It is not surprising that the imam/mosque are denying this and saying that it is incorrect or out of context. In fact, there were two different sermons from California mosques this week, both of them calling for destroying/annihilating the Jews.

MEMRI is a bipartisan, nonprofit organization and we are nearly two decades old. One of our most important projects is our Tom Lantos Archives on Antisemitism, named after Congressman Tom Lantos, the only Holocaust survivor to serve in Congress. Sadly, the content in these sermons is very common; this sentiment is in the culture of the Middle East. There are hundreds of examples that can be found on our website ( Over the years, when an influential person has been caught saying something in Arabic that we translated, they always make excuses and claim that it was mistranslated or taken out of context. But once they are caught they do not do it again, because they know that their words are being monitored and translated.

Everything that MEMRI does in our work at the Lantos archives and on Capitol Hill has support from members of Congress from both sides of the political aisle. We work very closely with members from California, including Nancy Pelosi and Brad Sherman, who have both spoken at our events, and of course Tom Lantos himself was a representative from California. Our work is also supported by leadership ranging from John Kerry, Joe Biden, and Hillary Clinton to Paul Ryan, John McCain, and many others.

One of MEMRI’s flagship projects is our Reform Project; this project is entirely devoted to amplifying the voices of reformists, moderates, and liberal activists in the Middle East, and to working with leading Muslim reformists and imams who are bravely speaking out against the kind of incitement and hatred expressed this week by the California imam – and they understand this sentiment better than anyone else. Also, MEMRI’s Board of Advisors has a number of prominent and influential Muslims on it.

It should be noted that over the past two years we have translated sermons in Canada, Germany, Belgium, Australia, Spain, Italy, and Denmark that have included statements and quotes that are almost identical to those in the California sermon – and this has led to criminal cases against these imams. These sermons and others like them are inciting to violence for killing Jews. The two CA imams did not say Israelis, and they did not say Zionists. They said Jews. Anyone defending the imams and the statements coming from these mosques and attacking MEMRI for bringing them to light are excusing the worst form of antisemitism, and, in fact, justifying violence.

It is unfortunate that this is the sentiment in the Muslim world. If you turn on Arab TV you will see such antisemitism expressed by some of the most influential imams in the region. Sermons like these are common in some of the most important mosques and Islamic centers. This hatred can also be found in schoolbooks throughout the region. The content in these sermons is extremely common.

Steven Stalinsky is Executive Director of Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI).  The group’s goal is to “bridge the language gap between the Middle East and the West.”

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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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21 thoughts on “MEMRI’s Response to Statements by Imam and Islamic Center of Davis”

  1. Tia Will

    What I would like to see from MEMRI is a verbatim translation of the entire sermon, perhaps with annotations of the more controversial statements by Muslim board members including the range of alternative meanings.

    For as far back as my comparative religions class, I have been aware that the exact words spoken frequently are exploited by one side or another to bolster their interpretation. Just doubling down and stating that you are objective is not the same as providing evidence.

      1. Howard P

        Pretty good quality ‘capture’ of Lucille Ball’s performance, as a 70 year old woman.  Amazing, in fact… as the french would say “incroyable!”  Surprised it still exists…

        Amazing what they can do with makeup…

        The first performance of Cats was in 1981.

        Lucille Ball was born in 1911.

        Or did you mean the 1960 musical Wildcat?

        Facts are pesky things… guess I lost something in the ‘translation’… I am not fluent in ‘musicals’

        ‘Reading is FUNdamental!

    1. Keith O

      LOL at Howard, I was just being facetious, joking.  I’m sure Alan got it, it was intended for him.

      You’ve got to admit though that the singer does look like Lucille Ball.

      I saw Cats in SF at the Orpheum Theater many years ago, loved it.

      From now on Howard when I’m being facetious I’ll try and let you know so you don’t put all that effort in researching the Internet in order to prove me wrong, which you seem to have an obsession for.

      In the meantime, that object flying over your head is a Cat, or is it a Ball?

      1. Howard P

        Fair enough… my ‘bad’… or, was it?

        The topic is about what to believe in regard to what is written or said. And judging folk based on that…

        I responded in that context… or, perhaps I was being facetious, as well, and you didn’t ‘get it’… and you have fallen into the same ‘trap’ that you say I did…

        Je suis finis… will await the press conference…

  2. aaahirsch8

    The comments of the Imam are very concerning.  Hateful.

    So how do we put this back together….by pour gas on fire or meeting between people to change minds?

    It should also be noted, Mr Stalinsky is not a Davis resident, and has no interest in maintain a safe tolerant community in community, and can’t be part of such a conversation.

    And he is head of MEMRI –which is “so much more” than they claim to be in the small blurb at the end of the article.

    Started by an X-Israeli Intelligence officer, MEMRI’s funding sources are unclear…..and are practically, if not actually, part of the Israel’s acknowledged Hasbara–campaign in the US…. who’s goal is to further the interests of the country of  Israel.

    Definition: Hasbara is a form of propaganda aimed at an international audience, primarily, but not exclusively, in western countries. It is meant to influence the conversation in a way that positively portrays Israeli political moves and policies, including actions undertaken by Israel in the past.Nov 13, 2011

    The Vanguard should have included this background to describe the author, and any author, who is not a resident of Davis.

    Vanguard could still could fix this.

    I encourage folks to look at the entry describing MEMRI on Wikipedia.



    1. Keith O

      So tell us what was false about the translation that MEMRI provided?

      Prove that MEMRI’s translation is false then it all ends.

      Until someone neutral can prove MEMRI wrong none of this really matters.

      1. David Greenwald

        I think we’re past that at this point.  There will be a press conference tomorrow and some form of apology.  And then we’ll see where we’re at.

      2. Howard P

        Until someone neutral can prove the Imam called for the annihilation of Jews none of this really matters.

        At least your appear to acknowledge that neither Stalinsky nor MEMRI, nor Fox, nor Breitbart, nor Washington Times are ‘neutral’.

      3. Hider Noori


        Take a piece of paper with the most controversial words from the sermon, walk up to multiple Arab UCD students or online Arab friends and ask them for the meaning of those words. I think what you’ll find is that MEMRI’s translation is, unfortunately, spot on. It’s no mystery to me since I’m Arab but you guys seem to be arguing a lot about a problem that can very easily be solved.
        Just a thought.

        1. Keith O

          Hider, I totally agree with you, thank you for your honesty.  What we have here is some of our local liberals attacking the messenger (MEMRI) while trying to protect Muslims because they’re one of their protected classes.  Nobody has proved MEMRI’s translation to be wrong.  Hider, if a local Catholic Church or Jewish Synagogue had said the same thing about Muslims all Hell would be breaking loose in this town.  Instead we have people trying to downplay the incident, deflection and blaming the messenger.

    2. Howard P

      AAA… I did… and drilled down a bit… nothing you shared is inconsistent with what I discovered…

      Thank you for the info… context can be everything…

    3. Hider Noori


      This MEMRI can be the incarnation of the Devil and Hitler and Stalin lumped together with Darth Vader…still…their translation is spot on. Feel free to prove otherwise.

        1. Hider Noori

          Keith, this morning the Associate Press (and others) reported on this random old North Dakota lady walking out of a walmart or something, getting in a parking lot argument. Eventually saying that she’ll kill all Muslims. Not this Imam though.

          I ask all of our dear liberals here…why is that?
          I escaped the Middle East’s Islamic fundamentalism only to find it a protected class in here by half the country like you said. Quite puzzling. I’m ex-Muslim/Atheist by the way and no fan of the GOP OR Trump.

 It seems over but I think this Hitler-Wanna be Imam will keep his job.

        2. Howard P

          BTW,  Hider, your cite, cites the derivative source, the edited (and translated by an unattributed source), abridged one.

          Not convincing … I remain a skeptic… either way… I know what I heard in English… have no clue what I heard in Arabic.

          Guess I missed the memo that said/proved that “Middle East’s Islamic fundamentalism only to find it a protected class in here by half the country like you said.” Care to elaborate?

      1. Howard P

        “proof” is an interesting concept… can one “prove” that God exists?  Can one “prove” there is no God?  Or multiple gods?

        Can one “prove” a translation?  Can one “prove” that a translation is errant?

        Interesting questions, ne c’est pas? Je ne connais pas…

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