Last Friday, the Egyptian-born American Imam Ammar Shahin took the pulpit at the Islamic Center of Davis, California, to deliver some words to the faithful.
“The prophet Muhammad,” the young Imam said in a calm voice, alternating between English and Arabic, “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, of Afghan, oh Pakistani… The Prophet Muhammad says that the time will come, the last hour will not take place until the Muslims fight the Jews. We don’t say if it is in Palestine or another place. Until they fight.”
Shahin went on like this for a while longer. Then, he closed his eyes and addressed the Creator directly.
“Oh Allah,” he prayed, “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 close 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 one.”
Finding his groove, the Imam raised his voice in a plaintive cry: “Oh Allah, make this happen by our hand. Let us play a part in this.”
At more or less the same time, another Imam, Sheikh Mahmoud Harmoush, was preaching at another Islamic Center, in Riverside, 451 miles to the south. Born in Syria, Harmoush is an American citizen who had studied in West Virginia and California. And he had another tale of immigration to share with his flock: that of the Jews coming from Europe to Palestine.
The Muslims living in the Holy Land, the Imam said, were welcoming and wonderful, not knowing that the Jews had a plan to take over, “with killing and crimes and massacres.”
How low can these Jews sink? A fellow Muslim, the Imam said, his voice breaking, had sent him a video “showing a naked woman walking into the holy mosque under the occupation forces, just to insult more and more the psyche, honor, and dignity of the Muslims.”
The incident in question, of course, never happened. A naked woman did indeed appear, but at the Western Wall, not the mosque, and because no one present thought that female nudity posed a particular threat to the psyche, honor, and dignity of anyone, she was covered up and escorted out. Also, if you know anything at all about Al-Aqsa, you know that the incident in question could not have happened as described, because the mosque is governed not by the occupation forces but by the Muslim Waqf.
Undisturbed by these facts, the Imam warmed up to his favorite subject. “Allah, he said, “wants us to have Jihad in our lives, no matter what and where we are and what is happening.” That, Harmoush continued, is because the conflict with the Jews wasn’t just in Jerusalem: The evil ones, the Imam assured his listeners, will soon demand Mecca and Medina as well.
“Wake up,” he thundered, “it is time to be a Muslim. Prayers are not the only things.” And then, after more talk of Al-Aqsa and its Jewish occupiers, the grand finale: “Oh, Allah, destroy them… Turn them into booty in the hands of Muslims.”
That these two sermons, oozing with anti-Semitism of the crudest kind, could take place, in 2017, in the state of California, should terrify not only Jews but also Muslims who abhor the idea of their faith abused by fanatics who turn scripture into screeds and who use the pulpit to preach for murder. It should also jolt good liberals into action, as they imagine how they would feel if the speakers were, say, right-wing Evangelicals calling on Christ to smite the gays. And it should rouse the ADL into action, if it wants to dispel the mounting evidence that it’s a Democratic Party affiliate primarily interested in ephemeral political scuffles rather than in protecting real Jews from real hate.
All this must happen immediately, before one of the men who sat at the feet of Imams Shahin and Harmoush gets up and decides that the day of reckoning is upon us and that it’s time to do as Allah commands and go slay the Jews.
Liel Leibovitz is editor at large for Tablet Magazine and a host of its weekly culture podcast Unorthodox and daily Talmud podcast Take One.