The Islamic Center of Davis, California, has defended Imam Ammar Shahin over a sermon last Friday in which he quoted an antisemitic text and prayed for Allah to “annihilate” Jews “down to the very last one.”
It claimed that the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) had mis-translated Shahin’s prayer, and that he prayed that Allah “destroy” rather than “annihilate” the Jews responsible for temporarily closing access to the Al-Aqsa mosque (after a terror attack).
The word “destroy,” the mosque claimed, was not a call to violence but merely a “supplication that is generally used against oppressors.”
The mosque’s full statement is as follows:
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.
Nowhere in the mosque’s statement did it condemn or even criticize the terror attack earlier this month in which a Muslim shot and killed two Israeli Druze police officers, leading to the temporary closure of access to the mosque.
Despite the mosque’s claims, Imam Shahin’s sermon referred specifically to Jews — in English (via MEMRI transcript):
The Prophet Muhammad said: ‘Judgment Day will not come until the Muslims fight the Jews, and the Jews hide behind stones and trees, and the stones and the trees say: Oh Muslim, oh servant of Allah…’ They will not say: Oh Egyptian, oh Palestinian, oh Jordanian, oh Syrian, oh Afghan, oh Pakistani. The Prophet Muhammad says that they time will come, the Last Hour will not take place until the Muslims fight the Jews. We don’t say if it is in Palestine or another place. Until they fight… When that war breaks out, they will run and hide behind every rock, and house, and wall, and trees. The house, the wall, and the tress will call upon the Muslims. It will say: Oh Muslim… It will not say: Oh Palestinian, oh Egyptian, oh Syrian, oh Afghan, oh Pakistani, oh Indian… No, it will say: Oh Muslim. Muslim. When Muslims come back… ‘Come, there is someone behind me – except for the Gharqad tree, which is the tree of the Jews. Except for a certain tree that they are growing today in Palestine, in that area, except this form of tree, which they are growing today… That’s the tree that will not speak to the Muslims.
Moreover, as Breitbart News reported on Monday — after watching the entire video, and not just the portion excerpted by MEMRI — Imam Shahin specifically referred to “a war of faith” against Jews.
At no point did Imam Shahin suggest “that the conflict is not with Jews or any specific group of people,” as the mosque claims.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named one of the “most influential” people in news media in 2016. He is the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.