Preach­ing vi­o­lence from the pul­pit

A Cal­i­for­nia imam’s hate speech and in­cite­ment at­tract re­mark­ably lit­tle main­stream me­dia at­ten­tion

The Washington Times Daily - - COMMENTARY - By Clif­ford D. May Clif­ford D. May is pres­i­dent of the Foun­da­tion for De­fense of Democ­ra­cies and a colum­nist for The Wash­ing­ton Times.

Imag­ine if a priest, min­is­ter or rabbi were to call for Mus­lims to be an­ni­hi­lated. It would be a scan­dal and it would spark a na­tion-wide con­tro­versy over Is­lam­o­pho­bia, hate speech and in­cite­ment to vi­o­lence. So why is that not the case when an imam calls for the an­ni­hi­la­tion of Jews?

On July 21, Am­mar Shahin, the Egyp­tian-born imam at the Is­lamic Cen­ter of Davis (ICD) and an in­struc­tor at the Zidni Is­lamic In­sti­tute, both in Cal­i­for­nia, preached from his pul­pit: “The Prophet Muham­mad says that the time will come, the Last Hour will not take place un­til the Mus­lims fight the Jews…Oh Al­lah, lib­er­ate the Al-Aqsa Mosque from the filth of the Jews . ... Oh Al­lah, count them one by one and an­ni­hi­late them down to the very last one. Do not spare any of them. … Oh Al­lah, make this hap­pen by our hands. Let us play a part in this.”

A video of the ser­mon was re­leased by the Mid­dle East Me­dia Re­search In­sti­tute (MEMRI), a non­par­ti­san, non-profit or­ga­ni­za­tion that for al­most two decades has pro­vided ac­cess to pri­mary source ma­te­ri­als from the “Mus­lim world,” trans­lat­ing such ma­te­ri­als from Ara­bic, Farsi, Turk­ish and other lan­guages.

Sto­ries soon ap­peared in the Is­raeli press and right-of-cen­ter Amer­i­can news out­lets such as Bre­it­bart, The Wash­ing­ton Times, the Wash­ing­ton Free Bea­con, The Blaze and the Fox News Chan­nel. Left-of-cen­ter out­lets, also known as main­stream me­dia, ap­par­ently saw noth­ing to re­port.

The ICD put out a press re­lease call­ing MEMRI “an ex­trem­ist agenda driven or­ga­ni­za­tion” and claim­ing that the Imam Shahin’s ser­mon had been “mis­trans­lated” and taken “out of con­text.” The imam told a lo­cal tele­vi­sion re­porter that it was “very sad to hear that peo­ple are tak­ing your words and they are twist­ing it around.”

In re­sponse, MEMRI pointed out that it had posted the ser­mon un­cut and unedited. There could be no ques­tion about the ac­cu­racy of the trans­la­tion. The prayer had re­ferred specif­i­cally to “the Jews” — not Is­raelis or Zion­ists. MEMRI also trans­lated a ser­mon from July 14 in which Imam Shahin “made sim­i­lar state­ments.”

On Thursday, the Los An­ge­les Times did run a piece. Its re­luc­tance to do so was ap­par­ent from the first line: “A North­ern Cal­i­for­nia mosque that was tar­geted in a vandalism hate crime found it­self at the cen­ter of con­tro­versy this week af­ter an imam de­liv­ered a ser­mon with in­flam­ma­tory re­marks about Jews.” The vandalism — two bi­cy­cles de­stroyed and ba­con draped over a door han­dle — oc­curred in Jan­uary. The woman re­spon­si­ble was sen­tenced to five years’ pro­ba­tion. What this has to do with the imam call­ing for the killing of Jews was not ex­plained.

The Times went on to re­port that lo­cal “Jewish and Mus­lim re­li­gious lead­ers spent four hours Thursday look­ing to hash things out.” And, in­deed, on Friday, Mr. Shahin and the ICD changed their tune.

At a press event, the imam said he was “deeply sorry for the pain that I have caused. The last thing I would do is in­ten­tion­ally hurt any­one, Mus­lim, Jewish or other­wise. It is not in my heart, nor does my re­li­gion al­low it.”

The Wash­ing­ton Post re­ported on Mr. Shahin’s apol­ogy. Post re­li­gion re­porter Michelle Boorstein quoted him telling her: “It’s un­fair when I have spo­ken about non­vi­o­lence, and here is some two min­utes. My record is very clear, I have al­ways been against vi­o­lence.” To say that her ar­ti­cle was sym­pa­thetic to­ward him would be an un­der­state­ment.

Imam Shahin also said he re­gret­ted let­ting “my emo­tions get the best of me and cloud my bet­ter judge­ment.” What roiled his emo­tions? On July 14, three ter­ror­ists killed two Is­raeli Druze po­lice­men on Jerusalem’s Tem­ple Mount, Ju­daism’s holi­est site, also the lo­ca­tion of the Al Aqsa Mosque, the third holi­est site for Mus­lims. The Is­raelis then in­stalled metal de­tec­tors to en­hance se­cu­rity. That set off ri­ots. The metal de­tec­tors have since been re­moved.

Al­low me one para­graph of mod­ern his­tory. The First Arab-Is­raeli war was fought in 1948. It ended with Jor­dan oc­cu­py­ing east Jerusalem, ex­pelling Jews from the Jewish Quar­ter and then des­e­crat­ing and/ or de­stroy­ing Jewish holy sites, syn­a­gogues and ceme­ter­ies. In the Six-Day War of 1967, Jor­dan at­tacked Is­rael from east Jerusalem. The Is­raelis counter-at­tacked, forc­ing the Jor­da­ni­ans to re­treat. But hop­ing to begin a peace process, the Is­raelis guar­an­teed Mus­lims “full free­dom of wor­ship” and placed con­trol of Al Aksa and the Tem­ple Mount un­der the cus­to­di­an­ship of a Jor­da­nian-based Is­lamic author­ity.

For Is­lamic su­prem­a­cists (aka Is­lamists) that’s in­suf­fi­cient. They want no Jews or other in­fi­dels shar­ing sites to which Mus­lims lay claim. More broadly, they re­ject “two states for two peo­ples” — the ba­sis on which diplo­mats have at­tempted for decades to ne­go­ti­ate a “two-state so­lu­tion” to the con­flict with Is­rael.

At the press event on Friday, Mr. Shahin said he was com­mit­ted to “de­fend­ing re­li­gious rights in Jerusalem.” That he is keen to do so for Mus­lims, I have no doubt. But what about Jews and Chris­tians?

He said he fa­vors Mus­lims, Jews and Chris­tians peace­fully co­ex­ist­ing. Does he mean just in Amer­ica and Europe or also in the Mid­dle East? Jews were forced to flee from Mus­lim-ma­jor­ity lands af­ter World War II, and cur­rently a geno­ci­dal cam­paign is be­ing waged against Chris­tians, Yazidis and other Mid­dle Eastern mi­nori­ties. What are his views on that? Does he be­lieve Is­rael has a right to ex­ist?

And by the way: Why did he come to Amer­ica? Why has he re­mained? Has he be­come an Amer­i­can ci­ti­zen? If so, what about Amer­ica does he value?

At Friday’s press event, he took no ques­tions. Per­haps there are main­stream re­porters work­ing to get an­swers. But most, the ev­i­dence sug­gests, are de­ter­minedly in­cu­ri­ous.

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