A couple of weeks ago a Muslim imam from Egypt delivered a sermon to his congregation which dealt with the recent controversies over the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. In the course of Ammar Shahin’s speech, he prayed that God would liberate the Al-Aqsa mosque from the “filth of the Jews” and destroy them down to the very last one, and that he and his congregants would be allowed to personally participate in the slaughter.
There was nothing original in the speech. Such sentiments can be heard routinely in mosques throughout the Arab and Muslim world, and even in the world’s highest institutions of Islamic learning. But what made this speech different was that it was delivered at a mosque in Davis, California, a liberal college town that prides itself on its tolerance, diversity and inclusiveness, and whose religious leaders work hard to promote interfaith unity.
The talk was video recorded and uploaded to YouTube, but hastily taken down when it went viral among non-Muslims, creating a major public relations headache for the mosque. Jews and others in Davis and beyond were filled with anger and consternation, but unsure what to do. Some suggested a legal investigation be made to determine if any hate crime laws had been broken. After all, if calling for the extermination of an entire group of people based solely on their race, and expressing a wish to participate in that extermination, doesn’t qualify as hate speech, what does? Some suggested that the entire mosque leadership be investigated for ties to militant Islamic groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood, and permanently shut down if such ties were found.
But cooler heads prevailed, and local leaders settled for an apology. Under great pressure, Shahin made a public apology at a news conference attended by local political and religious leaders where he attempted to appease the outrage. He said that he let his emotions cloud his better judgment, that he now realized his words were hurtful to Jews, that he would never want to hurt anyone, that it wasn’t in his heart to do so and that his religion wouldn’t allow it.
Was the apology sincere? Did it reflect his true feelings, or was it the sermon that reflected his true feelings, with the press conference being a mere performance that he had to go through in order to be able to continue his work of shaping young Muslim minds? The reader can draw his own conclusions.
The real problem is not this one preacher, but the fact that he is part of a much larger movement of militant Muslims, well organized and well funded, seeking to gain control of all Muslim institutions in the U.S. in order to further their ultimate goal of Islamic supremacy. Though the threat is still in its early stages, it cannot be taken lightly. We’re in a battle for Western civilization itself, a battle fought not only with weapons but also with words and ideas.
It’s ultimately a religious struggle, and the West, with its steep decline in religious values and its focus on material comforts and instant gratification, is woefully unprepared to wage such a struggle. Unless we can redefine who we are and what we stand for in a way that inspires confidence and devotion, and unless we can create a conviction that we possess values that are worth fighting for to the very end, even against ruthless and relentless enemies who are eager to die for their cause, we’ll face a very hard struggle indeed, with no guarantee of ultimate success.