A California Imam has come under fire after delivering a sermon in which he called on Allah to "annihilate" Jews "down to the very last one" -- and urged Muslims to participate in the killings.
In the sermon delivered at the Islamic Center of Davis, California on Friday, Imam Ammar Shahin asked Allah to liberate the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Israel from "the filth of the Jews," the Sacramento Bee reports.
"Oh Allah, count them one by one and annihilate them down to the very last one. Do not spare any of them," said Shahin, who spoke in both Arabic and English during his sermon. "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."
The Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem's Old City is one of the holiest sites in Islam and part of the Temple Mount complex. It's been a controversial site for decades, but made headlines earlier in July, when two Israeli police officers were killed by Arab gunmen there. All three Palestinian gunmen were also killed.
In response, the shrine was closed for several days, canceling Friday prayers for the first time in decades. Israel also put metal detectors and increased security at the mosque, inciting anger among Muslims who view the Israeli measures as a violation of the pact governing the site.
A video of the Imam's sermon was posted to the Islamic Center of Davis' YouTube channel on Friday. Excerpts of the sermon, which lasted about two and a half minutes, were translated and posted on the Middle East Media Research Institute website.
"The sermon is very antisemitic and violent, much like many sermons in the mosques of the Middle East," MEMRI Executive Director Steven Stalinsky said. "It is not surprising that the imam/mosque are denying this and saying that it is incorrect or out of context. In fact, there were two different sermons from California mosques this week, both of them calling for destroying/annihilating the Jews."
The Simon Wiesenthal Center, an international Jewish human rights organization in Los Angeles, also took issue with the video and called upon the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to launch an investigation of the Imam for "inciting to murder Jews."
"By explicitly urging Muslims to annihilate all Jews by their own hands, Shahin has crossed the line beyond protected speech," Rabbi Abraham Cooper and Rabbi Yitzchok Alderstein, both SWC directors, wrote in a letter to Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly.
In a statement on its website, the Islamic Center of Davis defended Shahin and his sermon, saying it was "misquoted" by the MEMRI.
"The ICD will always stand against anti-Semitism similarly to how the Jewish community has always stood against Islamophobia in our close knit community," the statement said. "We have zero tolerance for anti-Semitism or any other form of bigotry."
It continued: "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."
In another statement to the David Enterprise, the center said the sermon was simply referring to the "theological issue regarding the apocalyptic battle between Jesus and the Antichrist," and not specifically targeting Jews.
"When people believe in Jesus and hold on to the truth, God will support them. This was the purpose of citing the prophetic tradition," the center said. "In the context of the full sermon, it becomes clear that the theme of the sermon was against oppression, and not against Jews or any religion."