Video ver­i­fies ji­had rhetoric; imams forced to apol­o­gize

MEMRI proves views against Jews in U.S.

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY ROWAN SCARBOROUGH

A pre­mier re­search or­ga­ni­za­tion known for ex­pos­ing ji­hadi ex­trem­ist chat­ter is ex­press­ing vin­di­ca­tion for its work to out two Cal­i­for­nia imams who were forced to apol­o­gize for their calls for mass vi­o­lence against Jewish peo­ple.

The Washington-based Mid­dle East Me­dia Re­search In­sti­tute ob­tained videos of Mus­lim preach­ers Am­mar Shahin and Mah­moud Har­moush de­liv­er­ing in­cen­di­ary ser­mons last month at Cal­i­for­nia mosques in Davis and River­side.

While the back­drop was the Pales­tinian-Is­raeli cri­sis on ac­cess to the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, the two Mus­lims’ tirade went well beyond how to re­spond to that spe­cific con­flict. In­stead, Imam Shahin called for the an­ni­hi­la­tion of Jews and their “filth.” Imam Har­moush said the Prophet Muham­mad should “de­stroy them” and “turn them into booty in the hands of the Mus­lims.”

The stand­off in east Jerusalem eased last week af­ter Is­rael lifted re­stric­tions on en­ter­ing the mosque, a sa­cred shine at what Is­raelis call the Tem­ple Mount and Mus­lims re­fer to as the Noble Sanc­tu­ary.

MEMRI, which picked up the imam videos in its con­stant searches of ji­hadi web­sites and so­cial me­dia, posted the clips on its TV chan­nel and on YouTube.

The news me­dia picked up the story and con­fronted both Is­lamic cen­ters.

But in some cases, the sto­ries’ nar­ra­tive turned against MEMRI af­ter the imams claimed they were quoted out of con­text, even though the re­search group pub­lished ex­tended re­marks.

A na­tional news­pa­per quoted one scholar as say­ing MEMRI was try­ing to di­vide Mus­lims and Jews. An­other ques­tioned MEMRI’s trans­la­tions from Ara­bic to English.

What irked Steven Stal­in­sky, MEMRI’s ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor, was that few re­porters came to his non­profit to ob­tain its side of the story, which was that there were no mis­trans­la­tions or dis­torted edit­ing.

“Re­porters have not asked for any kind of state­ment from MEMRI, have not both­ered to ask about MEMRI’s per­spec­tive on the mat­ter and have not even con­tacted MEMRI in any way,” Mr. Stal­in­sky told The Washington Times. “This has been very sur­pris­ing and deeply trou­bling as many me­dia out­lets we fre­quently help are among those who have not both­ered to speak with us about the story.”

Then vin­di­ca­tion came.

Imam Shahin said Fri­day at a press con­fer­ence: “To the Jewish com­mu­nity here in Davis and beyond, I say this deeply: I am deeply sorry for the pain I have caused.”

Af­ter re­ceiv­ing crit­i­cism from Cal­i­for­nia elected of­fi­cials, Imam Har­moush re­leased a semi-apol­ogy. Ac­cord­ing to the Los An­ge­les Times, he said: “All life is sa­cred, and every per­son has a sa­cred right to re­spect, safety and lib­erty. Mem­bers of all faiths, in­clud­ing my own, rest firmly on these prin­ci­ples, and I believe in pro­mot­ing them with jus­tice and em­pa­thy. In­ter­faith di­a­logue has demon­strated re­sound­ing suc­cesses in fos­ter­ing pos­i­tive change and com­mu­nal in­sight while in­cor­po­rat­ing peo­ple of all faiths in a hu­mane, gen­uine and sus­tain­able path for­ward.”

Mr. Stal­in­sky said both preach­ers have de­liv­ered other hard-edged ser­mons, which may be posted in the com­ing days.

MEMRI’s daily re­ports fo­cus on ex­trem­ist strate­gies, pro­pa­ganda and threats is­sued in Syria, Iraq, North Africa and Europe. Many post­ings come from the Is­lamic State, the mod­ern world’s first func­tion­ing ter­ror­ist army.

But last month, MEMRI pub­lished con­tent closer to Amer­ica.

Mr. Stal­in­sky wanted to show that Is­lamic ex­trem­ist di­a­logue is hap­pen­ing in the U.S. too — and not just from on­line ji­hadi wannabes but from se­nior Is­lamic lead­ers.

“Oh, Al­lah, lib­er­ate the Al-Aqsa mosque and all the Mus­lim lands from the un­just tyrants and the oc­cu­piers,” Imam Har­moush said dur­ing a July 21 ser­mon at the Is­lamic Cen­ter of River­side, Cal­i­for­nia. “Oh, Al­lah, de­stroy them; they are no match for you. Oh, Al­lah, dis­perse them and rend them asun­der. Turn them into booty in the hands of the Mus­lims.”

Imam Har­moush told fol­low­ers that Is­rael’s ul­ti­mate goal is to con­quer Saudi Ara­bia’s holy cities of Mecca and Me­d­ina — an un­founded al­le­ga­tion.

At the Is­lamic Cen­ter of Davis, Cal­i­for­nia, Imam Shahin spoke in Ara­bic of the “filth of Jews” and “wicked Jews.”

“Turn Jerusalem and Pales­tine [into] a grave­yard for the Jews,” he said, ac­cord­ing to MEMRI’s trans­la­tion.

“Oh, Al­lah, count them one by one and an­ni­hi­late them down to the very last one,” Imam Shahin said.

At a July 14 ser­mon, the Egyp­tian­born Imam Shahin, made ex­plicit calls for vi­o­lence against Jewish peo­ple and ac­cused them of rap­ing women in Gaza.

“Oh, Al­lah, de­stroy them and do not spare their young or their el­derly,” he said, ac­cord­ing to a trans­lated video on MEMRI TV.

Say­ing his talk was fo­cused on the Al-Aqsa mosque, he then went on a rhetor­i­cal tirade of crimes that he said were com­mit­ted by Jews.

“We are not talk­ing about chil­dren who are dy­ing from hunger be­cause of what the Jews are do­ing to them,” he said. “We are not talk­ing about Gaza and the women who are get­ting raped.”

The Syr­ian-born Imam Har­moush told his au­di­ence that the ex­o­dus of Jews from Europe was a long-held plot “to take over that beau­ti­ful land in the way that we all know, with killing, crime and mas­sacres.”

MEMRI Pres­i­dent Yi­gal Car­mon, a for­mer Is­raeli army in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cer and coun­tert­er­ror­ism ad­viser to two prime min­is­ters, told The Times that these two cler­ics are not alone in North Amer­ica when it comes to try­ing to in­cite vi­o­lence.

“We trans­lated more than one ser­mon by Imam Shahin, and these state­ments in ser­mons are iden­ti­cal to those by imams and sheikhs all over North Amer­ica and Europe, many of which were ex­posed by MEMRI it­self,” Mr. Car­mon said. “And in those coun­tries, au­thor­i­ties have taken le­gal steps against them. In ef­fect, these imams com­prise a group of in­citers, and the Mus­lim com­mu­ni­ties that do not sub­scribe to these ideas are a cap­tive au­di­ence for them.”

He said one scholar quoted in the lib­eral press as doubt­ing MEMRI’s trans­la­tions is “sim­ply er­ro­neous ac­cord­ing to all the rules of pro­fes­sional trans­la­tion.”

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