The Washington Post gave Linda Sarsour space to exonerate herself after she called for jihad against Donald Trump. And now it runs interference for Ammar Shahin. But would the Washington Post ever give a foe of jihad terror a chance to rebut charges from, say, the Southern Poverty Law Center? Not on your life.
“Washington Post whitewashes California Imam’s ‘Annihilate the Jews’ sermon,” by David Gerstman, Legal Insurrection, July 30, 2017:
There are few things less ambiguous than a call to kill another person. Except, apparently, at The Washington Post.
On July 21, imams Ammar Shahin of the Islamic Center of Davis (ICD) and Mahmoud Harmoush of Islamic Center of Riverside gave speeches calling for the destruction of the Jews in the context of the recent violence centered around the Temple Mount. Both imams called on Allah “to liberate Al Aqsa from the Jews.”
The speeches were brought to light by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), which picked them up from the YouTube channels of both Islamic centers.
After exposure by MEMRI, news of one or both of the offending sermons were picked up The Jerusalem Post, the National Review, The Times of Israel, the Jewish Journal, the Free Beacon and various pro-Israel blogs, including Legal Insurrection and The Tower. There appears to be little or no national coverage given during the week to the sermons. (The local Davis Enterprise reported on it in middle of last week, but most national news organizations didn’t touch the story until Friday.)
Ignoring the Controversy
On Friday, Michelle Boorstein, the Post’s religion reporter covered the apology of Sheikh Ammar Shahin, the imam of the mosque, at the Islamic Center of Davis (ICD), in California, for giving an anti-Semitic sermon a week earlier.
For a full week The Washington Post was silent about this crude anti-Semitism. Only a week later did the Post cover it and a number of things are readily apparent.
- The Post only reported once Shahin offered a dubious apology.
- The Post never reported on Harmoush’s sermon. Harmoush did not apologize.
- The Post reported uncritically a false claim made by Shahin and one of his supporters.
- The Post got an expert to reinterpret part of his sermon so that it was somewhat less offensive.
The first two items are related. The news, which was first reported by MEMRI, on July 21 was that two California imams gave virulently anti-Semitic speeches calling for the killing of the Jews. That was the news.
The Post had a whole week to be aware of this news before Shahin’s “apology” press conference, but only reported on the sermon once an apology was in hand and damage control effort had begun. The fact that the speech by Harmoush, who to the best of my knowledge never apologized, was ignored makes it less likely that this was an accident.
Reporting the Apology with Sympathy, and Ignoring Root Causes
In the course of the article Boorstein reported ,”In the hour-long sermon, the 31-year-old Shahin focused on the standoff at the site and called Muslims to come together to protest the closure there.”
Later she quoted a worshiper from the mosque who said that he was disgusted “by the action of the Israeli government in preventing Muslim people from doing their prayers in the Masjid Al-Aqsa.”
But it wasn’t the Israeli government that closed the mosque (except in the immediate aftermath of the killings of two police officers there by a gang of three terrorists), Muslims stayed away from the mosque on account of boycott called by the head of the Waqf, the Jordanian religious trust that administers the site.
(I pointed this out to Boorstein on Twitter, she responded that it wasn’t her job to correct the inaccuracies as she linked to the reporting from Israel and this story was about what happened in Davis. Shahin, as her own reporting attests, made the false claim, so its inaccuracy is central to the story and should have been reported on.)
In case people were unconvinced by Shahin’s apology:
A Northern California imam whose widely distributed sermon about Jews in disputed Jerusalem set off controversy and fear of violence apologized at a Friday news conference, saying his words were hurtful and “unacceptable.”
“To the Jewish community, here in Davis and beyond, I say this: I am deeply sorry for the pain that I have caused. The last thing I would do is intentionally hurt anyone, Muslim, Jewish or otherwise. It is not in my heart, nor does my religion allow it,” Ammar Shahin said in his statement. …
“Commitment to defending religious rights in Jerusalem should not cause division or fan the flames of anti-Semitism,” Shahin said at Friday’s news conference. “Today, I commit to working harder and will join efforts for mutual understanding and building bridges. As a young religious leader, this has humbled me.”
Boorstein got an expert to re-translate part of Shahin’s speech so it would fit the imam’s new interpretation:
Nazir Harb Michel, a senior fellow at Georgetown University’s Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding in Arab and Islamic Studies, translated one passage in the imam’s sermon this way:
“O God, liberate the al-Aqsa mosque from the desecrations of the Jews. O God, upon you is the handling of those who closed the al-Aqsa mosque. O God, defeat each of them and count them all, and don’t leave any of them out.”
That’s certainly not as offensive as:
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.
but I suspect that Michel is taking a good deal of literary license with his interpretation. Is it a reporter’s job to seek advocates of a controversial figure and republish those remarks uncritically?
What no one seems to dispute is that elsewhere in the speech Shahin spoke in very unambiguous terms about the destruction of the Jews.
When that war breaks out, they will run and hide behind every rock, and house, and wall, and trees. The house, the wall, and the trees will call upon the Muslims. It will say: Oh Muslim… It will not say: Oh Palestinian, oh Egyptian, oh Syrian, oh Afghan, oh Pakistani, oh Indian… No, it will say: Oh Muslim. Muslim. When Muslims come back… ‘Come, there is someone behind me – except for the Gharqad tree, which is the tree of the Jews. Except for a certain tree that they are growing today in Palestine, in that area, except this form of tree, which they are growing today… That’s the tree that will not speak to the Muslims.
This hadith (saying attributed to Mohammed), along with some embellishments added by Shahin, is one that is cited in the Hamas covenant, saying that all Jews will be destroyed on Judgment day.
Furthermore, it may be possible to excuse Shahin if all he said that his call for Allah to deal with the Jews. But he said more than that. Shahin also prayed, “Oh Allah, make this happen by our hands. Let us play a part in this.” This isn’t simply a prayer for God to settle accounts with the Jews, it is literally a call to arms of his listeners to physically take part in liberating Al Aqsa.
It looks like Boorstein did her best to reduce Shahin’s inflammatory sermon to a political commentary delivered by someone who was understandably upset by the actions of the Israeli government….