After a California imam repeatedly targeted "the Jews" in a sermon, the Sacramento Bee published a story questioning whether the rhetoric was anti-Semitic but concealed some of the imam's most inflammatory remarks.
The imam, Ammar Shahin of the Islamic Center of Davis, called on god to liberate a Jerusalem holy site "from the filth of the Jews," told worshipers that the Jews believe in a "corrupted" Torah, and recited a traditional verse explaining that judgement day won't come until "the Muslims fight the Jews."
He impressed upon the congregation that the verse about fighting the Jews refers not only to Palestinians, but to Muslims everywhere. "Allah does not change the situation of people until they change their own situation," Shahin said in Arabic, before immediately reciting the inflammatory verse: "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' they will not say Oh Egyptian, oh Palestinian, oh Jordanian, oh Syrian, oh Afghan, oh Pakistani."
The imam then repeated the message in English: "The time will come, the Last Hour will not take place until the Muslims fight the Jews. We don't say if it's in Palestine or other til they fight. And when that war breaks, that they would run and hide behind every house and rock and wall and trees. The house and the wall and the trees will call upon the Muslims," he said, strongly emphasizing the last word. "It will say all Muslims. It will not say Oh Palestinian, oh Egyptian, oh Syrian, oh Afghan, oh Pakistani, oh Indian no, it will say oh Muslim. Muslim."
The verse is not an obscure one. It appears in the Hamas charter, and is frequently used by preachers urging people to hate and kill Jews.
The Sacramento Bee story about the July 21 sermon opaquely noted that Shahin cited "Islamic texts about an end-times battle," but inexplicably concealed from readers his actual language about Muslims fighting Jews.
This omission is particularly striking in an article that leaves it to readers to decide whether Shahin's sermon was, in fact, anti-Semitic. The imam's words caused "critics to condemn him as anti-Semitic," wrote Sacramento Bee reporter Anita Chabria, before quoting mosque officials who defended the imam and insisted they stand against anti-Semitism. How are readers expected to understand the criticism, and to properly evaluate the comments, if the full extent of Shahin's comments are hidden from them?
Mosque officials claimed that the imam was mistranslated, the Bee reported. Shahin's statements about a "corrupted" Jewish Torah and "Muslims fighting the Jews," though, were made in English. Both comments were omitted from the Sacramento Bee report. The reporter also turned to Berkeley professor Hatem Bazian, who expressed doubts about the precision of a widely circulated translation of Arabic parts of the sermon. The call to "liberate the Al-Aqsa mosque from the filth of the Jews" was more correctly translated as a call to liberate the mosque from "the defilement of the Jews," Bazian told the newspaper.
The Berkeley professor might not have been the most appropriate resource to consult with on such matters. He is the founder of the radical anti-Israel group Students for Justice in Palestine, slurs Israel as an apartheid state, and is affiliated with, and fund-raised for, groups and individuals that have illegally financed Hamas, a designated terror organization committed to Israel's destruction. In testimony before congress, Jonathan Schanzer documented "significant overlap" between Bazian's American Muslims for Palestine and "people who worked for or on behalf of organizations that were designated, dissolved, or held civilly liable by federal authorities for supporting Hamas." The Sacramento Bee did not disclose Bazian's affiliation with the anti-Israel groups.
But even if one accepts Barzian's argument that the California imam didn't say Jews are "filthy" but merely "defiling," it hardly puts to rest concerns about the anti-Semitism. Only one week before the sermon covered in the Sacramento Bee, Shahin lectured about the "deceit" and "wickedness" of the Jews, blamed the Jews for killing children in Gaza, and made a ghastly call for divine violence against Jews, praying that the young and elderly to be destroyed until Jerusalem is "a graveyard for the Jews":
May Allah protect the Al-Aqsa Mosque from the harm of the Jews. Oh Allah, protect our brothers in the land of Palestine. Oh Allah, let us pray in the Al-Aqsa Mosque before we die. Oh Allah, allow Jerusalem to be liberated. Oh Allah, liberate the Al-Aqsa Mosque from the filth of the Jews. Oh Allah, show us the wonders of Your ability that you inflict upon them. Oh Allah, show us the black day that You inflict upon them. Oh Allah, show us the black day that You inflict upon those who wish ill upon [the Al-Aqsa] Mosque. Oh Allah, keep them preoccupied with one another, and make a deterrent example out of them. Oh Allah, count them one by one and destroy them down to the very last one. Do not spare any of them. 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, show us the wonders of Your ability that you inflict upon them. Oh Allah, turn Jerusalem and Palestine into a graveyard for the Jews.
The Sacramento Bee did not cover this sermon. Asked why the imam's words about Muslims fighting the Jews were omitted from her story on the later sermon, Anita Chabria, the Sacramento Bee reporter, refused to comment, saying she is not comfortable speaking on the record about the issue.