- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 26, 2017

A California mosque is defending its imam as being taken out of context after reports said he called for the annihilation of Jews.

The Islamic Center of Davis (ICD) claimed Friday’s sermon by Imam Ammar Shahin was “mistranslated” by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), a nonprofit Middle East press translator, before it was picked up by numerous conservative and pro-Israel websites.

The mosque said in a statement Tuesday: “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,” it said. “We will continue our commitment to interfaith and community harmony.”

The mosque caught backlash over the weekend after Mr. Shahin was accused of calling for the death of all Jews and asking Allah to free the Al Asqa Mosque from their “filth.”

The mosque’s statement said Mr. Shahin was addressing the “illegal closure” and “occupation” of the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem’s Old City by the Israeli government, which recently erected metal detectors at the mosque after the July 14 killing of two Israeli policemen by Israeli-Arab gunmen. Israel removed the metal detectors Tuesday in favor of CCTV cameras, following a boycott from Muslims.

MEMRI’s translation reported Mr. Shahin as saying, “Oh Allah, support the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the rest of the Muslim lands. Oh Allah, liberate the Al-Aqsa Mosque from the filth of the Jews. Oh Allah, destroy those who closed the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Oh Allah, show us the black day that You inflict upon them, and the wonders of Your ability. Oh Allah, count them one by one and annihilate them down to the very last one. Do not spare any of them.”

The Islamic Center said Mr. Shahin was specifically referring to the individuals who are contributing to the “oppression” at the Al-Aqsa Mosque and not the Jews as a whole.

Imam Shahin and the ICD reject any attempt to blame all Jews for Israel’s policies just like we reject the attempts to blame all Muslims for the acts of fringe groups,” the statement said. “In reality, Jews around the world are on the front lines speaking out and protesting Israel’s repressive policies against Palestinians.

“The ICD will always stand against anti-semitism similarly to how the Jewish community has always stood against Islamophobia in our close knit community. We have zero tolerance for anti-Semitism or any other form of bigotry,” it said. “During these emotional times it’s important for all parties to use restrained language and maintain respect.”

Meanwhile, Rabbi Shmary Brownstein of the Chabad of Davis, located less than a half mile from the Islamic Center, told a local CBS affiliate that his family has started getting harassed by drivers passing by their home, which is also a house of worship. They say they’ve been on guard since the video was posted online.

“To me, it’s clear this is direct incitement,” the rabbi said.

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