The media have a long history of excusing Islamic extremism, downplaying it, and pretending it’s not an issue. We’ve all seen the ridiculous “we may never know the motive” headlines after an attack, even as the perpetrators shout Allahu Akbar and admit to joining ISIS. This kind of 1984-esque delusion and obfuscation of reality has become par for the course.
So what happens when a California Imam preaches a sermon calling for death to Jews? The Washington Post rushes in to provide rationalization for the statements while giving the Imam a nearly unchallenged platform to defend himself, of course.
This is what the Imam, Ammar Shahin, originally said in his July 21st youtube video.
The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), which monitors media coverage, particularly about Israel, translated Shahin as calling for God to “liberate the Al Aqsa Mosque from the filth of the Jews” and to “annihilate them down to the very last one,” the group said in a statement.
Now, I’m no English major, but “annihilate them down to the very last one” seems to be pretty clear, right? Calling Jews “filth” also doesn’t require much context to be exceedingly inflammatory.
The Imam, a man named Shahin, gave the following response.
On Wednesday, Shahin told The Washington Post that he wasn’t speaking of Jews in general but “specifically about this group shutting down the mosque — these soldiers, or settlers, or fighters, or oppressors.” He said he focused on the situation at al-Aqsa because so many U.S. Muslims aren’t aware of it. He said he regularly speaks out against the Islamic State and extremism by Muslims and has made statements against Muslim extremist attacks in Europe, South Asia and elsewhere.
He also decries that this incident is being held against him.
“It’s unfair when I have spoken about nonviolence, and here is some two minutes. My record is very clear, I have always been against violence,” he said.
Shahin is attempting to play a clever game. He clearly calls Jews filth and calls for their annihilation “to the very last one,” leaving no doubt he was speaking in broad terms. Furthermore, in the actual context of the sermon, he used illustrations of Muslims fighting and killing Jews to make his point. To try to white-wash this as just being about a few soldiers at the al-Aqsa mosque is simply not believable.
The Washington Post gave this Imam and his defenders two-thirds of the article to gaslight their readers. It’s not until the 17th paragraph that we get a dissenting voice. They then get back to another round of excuse making with a Georgetown Professor named Nazir Michel, who promptly accuses the MEMRI (who originally reported this) of attempting to stir up anti-Muslim sentiment.
This brings me to a bigger point. For arguments sake, let’s take this Imam’s word for it and say he was only talking about the Jewish “oppressors” at the mosque. In what world is it acceptable to call for the annihilation of police and soldiers (to the very last one) who are just providing security in the face of a very real, proven threat? Hundreds of weapons have been confiscated at the al-Aqsa mosque and dozens of attacks have happened in the area. Israeli leaders responded in a very respectable way by increasing security but still allowing Muslims to enter the mosque. In response, Muslim leaders have spun this as them not being allowed to pray (because apparently praying to allah requires a machete?), called for violence against Jews, and lied to their congregations about the details in order to stir up resentment.
Instead of pushing this Imam on his calls for violence, even if just against the Israeli security forces, the Washington Post prints his excuses with no push back. They then end the article with the following, because false equivalences and deflections are required anytime the mainstream media reports on the issue of Muslim extremism.
Castleman said local leaders were terrified of violence breaking out.
“I told him, ‘It’s like marriage: You can be happy or right, but you can’t be both.’ This is the time for you to create happiness and not justify yourself to be right,” he said. “Look, the Old and New Testaments have horrible things in them. You can always find horrible things. It’s a matter of how you apply them and how you use them.”
Davis officials earlier this year investigated as a hate crime an attack on the mosque. Surveillance video showed a woman placing bacon — which Muslims are forbidden from eating — on a door handle of the building in the middle of the night. Also, a half-dozen windows were shattered, the Los Angeles Times reported.
There’s the predictable money shot. It’s not the Muslim Imam who called for violence that’s really the problem. It’s the mythical backlash against Muslims by Old Testament reading Christians that we really need to worry about. Inserting the story about a woman “attacking” the mosque with bacon is also a nice touch.
Imagine for a moment that a Christian pastor had called for the death of Muslims while describing them as filth. Would the Washington Post give such a pastor a platform to explain himself? Would they seek out sympathetic voices to explain away his comments? Would they deflect to stories of Muslim attacks on Christians? Would they posit the possibly of a “backlash” leading to Muslim violence against Christians? I think we all know the answers to those questions.
The mosque’s official statement:
“If the sermon was misconstrued, we sincerely apologize to anyone offended,” the statement said. “We will continue our commitment to interfaith and community harmony.”
The mosque said that the imam’s comments were taken out of context and that MEMRI publicized a “mistranslation.”
“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,” the statement read. “We have zero tolerance for anti-Semitism or any other form of bigotry.”