Friday, July 28, 2017

Rabbi Taff speaks about Anti-Semitism in Davis

I wanted to update all of you on developments that have occurred since last week in regard to the anti-Semitic rant at a Davis Mosque.  Last Friday Imam Ammar Shahin at a religious service at the Islamic Center of Davis, said some of the most hateful comments about Jews that one could possibly imagine.  Among other things, he cited in Arabic and English a saying attributed to the Prophet Muhammad, that claims, “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.”  He also prayed that the Al-Aksa mosque in Jerusalem be liberated from “the filth of the Jews,” and to “annihilate them down to the very last one. Do not spare any of them.” 

No matter how one feels about any religious, political, or territorial dispute, the words spoken by the Imam were absolutely beyond any boundaries of decency and civility.  Those hate-filled comments have absolutely no place in our community.  Our entire Jewish community strongly condemned his words.

In response to the Imam’s hurtful and hateful words, the Islamic Center of Davis with which he is associated, issued a statement on its website and Facebook page that further added to the insult and injury caused by the Imam’s words.  Instead of clearly and unequivocally repudiating the Imam’s hate speech, the Islamic Center of Davis misrepresented the facts surrounding the unfortunate tensions and violence at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.  The Center accused a widely-respected organization (MEMRI) that translated the Arabic words of his sermon to English, by casting aspersions on that organization’s integrity, and implying that anyone who was offended by the hateful words was misinterpreting them.  The “If you were offended, we’re sorry” statement is about as close to blaming the victim, than placing the responsibility where it should be placed, on the Imam and on the Islamic Center of Davis. 

We are gratified to hear that this morning Imam Shahin spoke words of contrition at a press conference in Davis, apologizing for his hate-filled words (you can read his statement below).   We are also pleased that the Islamic Center’s non-apology, has been removed from their website and Facebook page.

The Imam’s words of apology and the Islamic Center’s response to remove the inflammatory defense of his sermon from Facebook and from its website is a result of a unified effort led by Rabbi Seth Castleman, the President of our Board of Rabbis.  Rabbi Castleman met for several hours this past Tuesday evening with the Imam and the leaders of the Islamic Center.  He solicited input and suggestions throughout the week from his rabbinic colleagues and other leaders in our Jewish community. I am personally grateful to him and to all who worked to insure that this sad episode is now behind us. 

Our congregation and others have long supported and engaged in harmonious interfaith relations in the Sacramento area.  We believe that building bridges of understanding amongst our very diverse faith communities are vital ingredients to a healthy, just, and whole community. 

A genuine apology is more than mouthing the words. It’s registering the damage that has been done. While I was not present in Davis this morning, I am told by those who were, that the Imam’s body language, his words, and his tone of voice acknowledged a deep recognition of the pain he and his Islamic Center has caused the Jewish Community.  And if that is indeed the case, then maybe true healing can be possible.

I am not so naïve to know that there will be people in our community who will question whether the Imam’s words of apology and the actions of the Islamic Center of Davis are really heartfelt and genuine.  We all know that actions speak louder than words.  So, we will continue to be vigilant and when we see anti-Semitism rearing its ugly head, we will respond forcefully and resolutely, as our community has done this past week.

Wishing you all a peaceful Shabbat.  Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Reuven Taff

In addition to the Imam’s statement, feel free to read this story which was published yesterday in the J by Elissa Einhorn:

Please click HERE for the link to Imam Ammar's Statement

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