Jewish groups have asked Homeland Security and the U.S. Attorney’s office to investigate a California Imam who gave a sermon calling on Allah to “annihilate” Jews “down to the very last one” — and asked for his congregants to take part in the slaughter.
Imam Ammar Shahin gave the sermon at the Islamic Center of Davis, California on Friday. He asked for Allah to liberate the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Israel from “the filth of the Jews,” according to a translation by the Middle East Media Research Institute, and cited an Islamic text that calls for a Judgement Day fight between Muslims and Jews.
“Oh Allah, count them one by one and annihilate them down to the very last one. Do not spare any of them,” said Shahin, who spoke in both Arabic and English during his sermon. “Oh Allah, make this happen by our hands. Let us play a part in this. Oh Allah, let us support them in words and in deeds.”
A video of the sermon was posted to the Islamic Center of Davis’ YouTube channel on Friday. Excerpts of the sermon, which lasted about two and a half minutes, were translated and posted on the MEMRI website.
The Al-Aqsa Mosque is on a holy site for both Jews and Muslims in East Jerusalem, and was the scene of a July 14 terror attack during which three Arab gunmen killed two Israeli police officers.
The shrine was closed for several days in the aftermath of the assault, canceling Friday prayers for the first time in decades. New security measures, including metal detectors, were installed, and immediately drew Palestinian condemnation.
Israel said the security measures were necessary to prevent more attacks, while Palestinians claimed Israel was trying to expand its control over the site. The issue has sparked some of the worst street clashes in years.
In a statement on its website, the Islamic Center of Davis stood behind Shahin and his sermon, saying it was taken out of context.
“The ICD will always stand against anti-Semitism similarly to how the Jewish community has always stood against Islamophobia in our close knit community,” the statement said. “We have zero tolerance for anti-Semitism or any other form of bigotry.”
It continued: “MEMRI, an extremist agenda driven organization that supports Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land, and other Islamophobic news organizations, accused Imam Shahin of anti-Semitism, quoting edited, mistranslated, passages of the sermon out of context.”
In another statement to the David Enterprise, the center said the sermon described the “theological issue regarding the apocalyptic battle between Jesus and the Antichrist,” or between good and evil – not against any particular group.
“When people believe in Jesus and hold on to the truth, God will support them. This was the purpose of citing the prophetic tradition,” the center said. “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.”
Steve Cohan, co-president of Congregation Bet Haverim in Davis, said in a statement that Shahin’s sermon was “deeply concerning” but that he looked forward to “going beyond the online media reports” and sharing his thoughts with the Islamic Center leadership.
But not everyone is being quite so understanding of Shahin’s rhetoric.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center, an international Jewish human rights organization in Los Angeles, has called upon the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to launch an investigation of the Imam for “inciting to murder Jews.”
“By explicitly urging Muslims to annihilate all Jews by their own hands, Shahin has crossed the line beyond protected speech,” Rabbi Abraham Cooper and Rabbi Yitzchok Alderstein, both SWC directors, wrote in a letter to Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly.
Hamza El-Nakhal, a longtime member of the Muslim community in Davis and a former president of the Islamic Center’s executive board, told the Davis Enterprise that he found the video “disturbing.”
He said he was out of town and did not attend the Friday service.
“While I am disgusted by the action of the Israeli government in preventing Muslim people from doing their prayers in the Masjid Al-Aqsa, I am equally disgusted by any religious leader who does not take the chance (during) high unsettling times to calm their congregations,” El-Nakhal said.
“Some people like Imam Ammar Shahin become angry for injustices. He spoke while angry. He should not have given this sermon while angry.”