An imam in California has enraged many in the UC-Davis community after a sermon in which he allegedly called for God to annihilate the Jews “down to the last one.”
Imam Ammar Shahin gave the controversial sermon, mostly in Arabic, at UC-Davis’ Islamic Center last Friday. The entire sermon is just under one hour and was uploaded to YouTube a day later.
Soon thereafter, an edited version of the sermon was posted online by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI). MEMRI’s version is just over two minutes long and relies on multiple jump cuts as well as in-house translation. At one point in the MEMRI-transcribed video, Shahin says:
“Oh Allah, liberate the Al-Aqsa Mosque from the filth of the Jews.”
At another point, citing the Hadith (a collection of Islamic traditions containing aphorisms of the Prophet Muhammad), Shahin says: “The Prophet Muhammad said: ‘Judgment Day will not come until the Muslims fight the Jews, and the Jews hide behind stones and trees…’”
But critics allege that MEMRI’s editing and translation plays fast and loose with the facts and context of the sermon.
The Islamic Center of Davis (ICD) issued a statement defending Shahin against MEMRI’s translation, which reads, in part:
“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. If the sermon was misconstrued, we sincerely apologize to anyone offended. We will continue our commitment to interfaith and community harmony. MEMRI’s video included an edited segment about a Prophetic tradition dealing with the apocalyptic battle between Jesus and the Antichrist. Prophetic traditions addressing the end of times are not meant to address modern conflicts, the Imam was using the tradition to address unity and coming back to the faith.”
An earlier, much longer statement in support of Shahin issued by the ICD dismissed charges of Shahin’s alleged anti-semitism and also accused MEMRI of being “notorious for academic dishonesty.”
MEMRI’s Wikipedia entry notes that the organization is frequently criticized for accusations of selectivity and bias. According to the Center for Media and Democracy, a non-profit watchdog and advocacy organization, MEMRI is an “Israeli propaganda organization that selectively translates materials from the Arab/Muslim/Iranian press purportedly demonstrating hostility against Israel/Jews” and their entry on the organization highlights several circumstances in which Arabic-language videos have been mistranslated by MEMRI in the past.
Regardless of the veracity of the translation, community members are scared and outraged.
Rabbi Mendy Cohen, of Chabad Sacramento said, in an interview with CBS Sacramento: “This is what we suffered throughout the years. We’re not going to let Davis become like the neighborhoods in Paris where police can’t go.”
Steve Cohan, co-president of Congregation Bet Haverim in Davis, said: “We look forward to going beyond the online media reports and will begin sharing our thoughts and concerns directly with Islamic Center leadership right away.”
Some however, have turned fear and outrage into action. The Simon Wiesenthal Center, an international Jewish civil rights organization issued a letter to Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly calling for an investigation into the imam for what they characterized as incitement “to murder Jews.”
[image via screengrab; video courtesy MEMRI]