Israel

Why Are American Imams Saying “Kill the Jews”?

On Friday, July 14, 2017, at 7 in the morning, 3 Arab men from northern Israel entered the Temple complex in Jerusalem and carried out a terrorist attack that ended with their deaths and the deaths of 2 Israeli Arab policemen who tried to stop them. Weeks of turmoil followed as Israel tried to find a way to maintain security using cameras and metal detectors.

On that same Friday in the United States, just hours after the attack, an imam, Ammar Shahin told his congregation in Davis, California that the Al-Aqsa Mosque had been besieged:

Those wicked Jews are prohibiting prayer there…May Allah protect the Al-Aqsa Mosque from the harm of the Jews…Oh Allah, liberate the Al-Aqsa Mosque from the filth of the Jews….Oh Allah, destroy them and do not spare their young or their elderly. Oh Allah, show us the black day that You inflict upon those who occupy Palestine…Oh Allah, turn Jerusalem and Palestine into a graveyard for the Jews.

But he was only just getting started. The following week, Shahin escalated his rhetoric and encouraged the Muslims in his mosque to kill Jews:

Allah does not change the situation of people ‘until they change their own situation.’ The Prophet Muhammad said: ‘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…”Oh Allah, liberate the Al-Aqsa Mosque. 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.”

Shahin was quoting from a Hadith, a tradition, made famous by its inclusion in the charter of the terrorist group Hamas. The complete Hadith reads:

The hour of judgment shall not come until the Muslims fight the Jews and kill them, so that the Jews hide behind trees and stones, and each tree and stone will say: ‘Oh Muslim, oh servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him,’ except for the Gharqad tree, for it is the tree of the Jews.” [emphasis added]

While he omitted the explicit mention of the part of the Hadith encouraging the killing of Jews, those in attendance surely knew what he was talking about.

Sheikh Shahin appears to have begun a trend.

From then till the end of the year, six other imams in a total of five states in the U.S. reacted to incidents of Israeli or American policy that they objected to by inciting hatred against Jews, if not encouraging the actual murder of them.

On that second Friday, Sheikh Mahmoud Harmoush spoke out in his mosque in Riverside, California against Jews as well:

I promise you, it is not only Palestine…Then they will call, in their fighting: ‘Oh, we will take revenge for Khaybar.’ Where is Khaybar? They will go back to it. They will make every Muslim pay, one way or the other. Wake up, it is time to be a Muslim. Prayer is not the only thing…Oh Allah, liberate the Al-Aqsa Mosque and all the Muslim lands from the unjust tyrants and the occupiers. 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.

A few days later, on July 24, the Islamic Center of Tennessee, in Antioch, Tennessee, posted a video on their YouTube channel of a Friday sermon delivered by Imam AhmedulHadi Sharif. Sharif told his congregants that “the Zionists” are the “number one terrorists in the world,” who had “kidnapped” the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Sharif warned that “if we lose Jerusalem – know that it is not going to stop there… The enemies of Allah will come and try to destroy the Kaaba [the most sacred site in Islam].”

Once the protests in Israel quieted down,  all was quiet for about 5 months.

That is, until the end of the year. On Wednesday, December 6, Trump made it official that he was going to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Two days later, on Friday, December 8, radical U.S. imams again incited their congregations against Jews:

• Raed Saleh Al-Rousan, a Houston-based imam, quoted a portion from that same Hadith that Muslims should kill Jews.

• Sheikh Ramadan Elsabagh, in Garland, Texas, entreated Allah to destroy the Zionists and their allies, and those who assist them”

• Aymen Elkasaby proclaimed in Jersey City, “Allah, wreak vengeance upon the plundering oppressors!”

• Abdullah Khadra, quoted the complete Hadith in his sermon in Raleigh, North Carolina that Muslims should kill Jews.

Reaction to the imams came from the expected places, like the ADL which came out both publicly and online in response. In the case of the two California imams, the ADL condemned both, then welcomed Shahin’s apology while noting that Harmoush did not apologize at all. They also responded to the anti-Semitic statements of the December imams — with the apparent exception of Elsabaugh, who seemed to have escaped the attention of MEMRI as well, but was written up by The Investigative Project on Terrorism.

The lesser coverage of Elsabaugh is a warning that MEMRI cannot do the job all by itself keeping track of this. There could be other radical imams out there that also came out, either in response to U.S. policy or for some other reason, with attacks against Jews or other groups. This makes the need to address this new phenomenon, when it shows itself, all the more important.

It should be noted that the Council on American-Islamic Relations, CAIR, responded publicly, to Shahin, stressing the strong ties between the Muslim and Jewish communities. The executive director of the Sacramento chapter, Basim Elkarra encouraged “people to realize words matter, words have consequences.” The response was not a strong condemnation, however. Similarly, their response to Elkasaby was passive, with New Jersey Director Jim Sues saying, “We believe that statements expressed in this sermon are inappropriate and should be condemned.”

CAIR has been justifiably criticized for its failure to react to and condemn instances of radical Islamism, and had been named as unindicted co-conspirators in the Holy Land Foundation. CAIR also did not respond to the statements of all of the imams. However, this is a possible indication that CAIR became sensitive to the potential negative backlash that is likely to develop if the Muslim community and its leadership do not come out openly to condemn such blatant examples of Muslim anti-Semitism.

How has the media responded to all of this?

The Washington Post whitewashed both California incidents:

• It only reported once Shahin offered a dubious apology.

• The Post did not report on Harmoush’s sermon, for which he did not apologize.

• It got an expert to reinterpret part of his sermon so that it was somewhat less offensive.

As for The New York Times, they settled for using the report provided by the Associated Press. The AP reported, “In a July 21 sermon, Shahin condoned the annihilation of Jews and those restricting access to the Al-Aqsa Mosque.”

But that is not what Shahin did – he did not condone the annihilation of Jews, he encouraged it. And while the AP article is still available online where other publications used it, the article has been is no longer available on the New York Times site.

Instead, when I did a search of both The New York Times and The Washington Post websites, I found no trace of the names of any of the 4 imams who preached violence in response to Trump’s Jerusalem announcement.

A notable exception is Newsweek, which reported Three US Imams Have Called for Death of Jews Since Trump’s Jerusalem Announcement and recognized that these were not isolated events but reactions to US Middle East policy.

The lack of coverage or even condemnation of what appears to be a growing trend – Muslim religious leaders calling for the death of Jews in  response to political disagreements – cannot continue.

Perhaps the media feels that drawing attention to this relatively new phenomenon could bring accusations that they are fomenting Islamophobia, exaggerating what from the Muslim community’s perspective is a collection of isolated circumstances. The mainstream media is sensitive to being portrayed in such a negative light.

In this context, the incidents cited over the past half year suggest that we are crossing over from politics and policy over to elements of a religious conflict. This religious component has helped make the Palestinian-Israeli conflict intractable. Will it now threaten to allow anti-Semitism to proliferate in the U.S. without any external checks to its spread?

[Photo: Y X / YouTube]