An Egyptian-born American Imam in Davis, California, has been exposed making statements which amount to antisemitic incitement. Imam Ammar Shahin, when he delivered last Friday July 22nd’s sermon at The Islamic Center of Davis, California, said
“Oh Allah, support the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the rest of the Muslim lands. Oh Allah, liberate the Al-Aqsa Mosque from the filth of the Jews. Oh Allah, destroy those who closed the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Oh Allah, show us the black day that You inflict upon them, and the wonders of Your ability. Oh Allah, count them one by one and annihilate them down to the very last one. Do not spare any of them.”
He also quoted the infamous Hadith referencing Muslims slaughtering Jews, stating:
“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, of Afghan, oh Pakistani… The Prophet Muhammad says that the 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.””
Ammar is a preacher and a teacher at the centre, which has posted a statement on their Facebook page and on their website, http://www.davismasjid.org, relating to the sermon:
“If the sermon was misconstrued, we sincerely apologize to anyone offended. We will continue our commitment to interfaith and community harmony.”
The statement, in which it is acknowledged that many Jews are active for the Palestinian cause, denies any antisemitism on the part of their Imam. They accuse MEMRI, which published the text of the sermon, of being “an extremist, agenda-driven organization that supports Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land”. Quotations from the sermon, they say, were mistranslated and taken out of context. However, we are not currently aware of any major issues relating to the accuracy of MEMRI’s translations.
The English language Facebook page of The Islamic Centre of Davis appears to be unobjectionable, providing information about classes, events and services at the centre. Nonetheless, pardoning such comments demonstrates an underlying tolerance of antisemitism in the Centre’s religious life.
Sheikh Ammar said he was speaking with reference to Jews who prevented Muslims from praying at the Al-Aqsa Mosque. However, Israeli security impeded prayer at the Al Aqsa very indirectly, by setting up metal detectors at the entrance to the Temple Mount. This was in response to the murder of two Israeli police officers on 14 July. Muslim leaders at the Mosque called for worshippers to boycott it as long as the additional security measures remained on the Temple Mount. The Israelis removed the metal detectors last week and have since removed all remaining security hardware, including cameras and railings.
Worshippers have now returned to the Temple Mount, the site of the Al Aqsa. As of today, Thursday, there is a celebratory mood among Palestinians, who are singing, dancing and handing out candy.
Sheikh Ammar’s sermon has been widely reported, around the world. Following the outcry, he finally apologised on Friday, saying:
“To the Jewish community here in Davis and beyond, I say this deeply: I am deeply sorry for the pain I have caused”
However, this apology came as a result of increased pressure, not least from the Council on American Islamic Relations, and public scrutiny. It is hard to see whether this is a bona fide apology, or rather an attempt to shelter from criticism, a question which time may well have the answer to. In his sermon on 14 July, two weeks prior, the Imam lead his congregation in another prayer in which he called upon Allah to “destroy” Jews and to “turn jerusalem and Palestine into a graveyard for the Jews”
Davis is a college town, just east of Sacramento and has a large student population.
Shireen Qudosi, Director of Muslim Matters at America Matters, has started a petition, calling on the Davis Centre to fire their inflammatory imam.