Since U.S. President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel on December 6, 2017, at least three U.S. imams have called for the death of Jews -- not Israelis: Jews -- in Friday sermons at mosques across the U.S., which treasures freedom of speech, no matter how distasteful -- unless it is "directed at inciting or producing imminent lawless action" or "likely to incite or produce such action."
In Canada, however, there is no freedom of speech -- meaning that "hate speech" is regarded as a crime that can be prosecuted. A few years ago, imams who did call for death of Jews in Canada resulted in some of these imams being investigated or prosecuted.
It is important to know what is being said, and by whom.
On Friday, December 8, 2017, for example, a sermon delivered in a Raleigh, North Carolina mosque, a U.S.-based Syrian imam, Abdullah Khadra, cited an anti-Jewish hadith (saying or act of Muhammad) that says, "By the end of time," Muslims will exterminate all Jews. The sermon was recorded and transcribed by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI).
On the same day, at the Tajweed Institute's Houston, Texas, the institute's imam and founder, Sheikh Raed Saleh Al-Rousan, delivered a sermon in which he said the Jews "killed the Prophets and Messengers of Allah," denied that "Palestine is the country for the Jewish," invoked the same Jew-killing hadith as Kharda did, and decried Britain's 1917 Balfour Declaration and President Trump's recent Jerusalem's declaration. Also on the same day, the imam of the Islamic Center of Jersey City, New Jersey, Sheikh Aymen Elkasaby, delivered a sermon in which he lamented that Jerusalem's Al Aqsa Mosque "remains prisoner in the hands of the Jews... under the feet of the apes and pigs." (Qur'an: 2:65, 5:60, and 7:166)
He then prayed for Allah to grant him martyrdom while fighting the Jews, and the annihilation of all of "the plundering oppressors."
Raed Saleh Al-Rousan, imam and founder of Tajweed Institute's Houston branch, quotes an Islamic hadith to kill Jews. (Image source: MEMRI video screenshot)
In Canada, at the Al-Andalous Islamic Centre in the St-Laurent borough of Montreal, Wael al-Ghitawi, the center's imam, in November 2014, and Sayed al-Ghitawi, who was visiting from the Middle East, in August 2014, both called for the death of Jews. The sermons came to public attention in February 2017, when YouTube videos of the talks were translated into English. In February 2017, two Jewish groups filed complaints against the imams with the Montreal police. Quebec's prosecutors, however, chose not to proceed, arguing that that too much time had elapsed.
Later, in July 2017, a Quebec judge issued an arrest warrant for an imam who had made several violent anti-Semitic statements at another Montreal mosque in December 2016. Sheikh Muhammad bin Musa al-Nasr, a Palestinian-Jordanian, while visiting Canada had said in the video that Allah has ordained that Jews should be killed by Muslims "at the end of time." He was apparently drawing on the same Jew-killing hadith (Sahih al-Bukhari Book Number 56 Hadith Number 791 - Muflihun) invoked by the U.S. imams. After an investigation by the Montreal police hate crimes unit, he was charged under Section 319(2) of the Criminal Code with the willful promotion of hatred.
The problem is, that while freedom of speech is permissible in the U.S., for centuries, hateful and violent rhetoric targeting Jews has been invariable in the religious and political discourse of Muslims, and is now as common in American and Canadian mosques as in the Middle East -- more than Westerners may have expected or understood. Also as in the Middle East, as imams have considerable influence in their communities, such rhetoric from Muslim imams in the "West" has a good chance of leading to violent attacks in Canada or America.
While many Muslims seem never to tire of complaining about "Islamophobia" against their communities, they seem to have no problem disseminating hate speech -- and sometimes hate acts -- against other groups. Statistics show that blacks, gays and Jews are far more disproportionately targeted for hate crimes in both the U.S. and Canada than Muslims are. When did anyone in North America last hear of ministers in churches or rabbis in synagogues calling for the death of Muslims? There seems to be a need for educating an incoming group about pluralism, tolerance and to begin thinking in terms of "if the shoe were on other foot."
If there is an expectation that Muslims and Islam is superior to other religions, then people, governments and NGOs might do well to disabuse Islamic clerics of this self-aggrandizement and narcissism as quickly as possible. Yes, these calls for genocide (which is what they are) might be commonplace where the imams came from. But the preachers are no longer in monolithic societies, so it might benefit the new world to begin exposing the newcomers to a new way of looking at things.
Imams based in the U.S. and Canada who explicitly glorify jihad against Jews deserve attention from political, media and government circles. The U.S. and Canada need to change their immigration and refugee policies to stop letting in people -- and especially preachers -- who have been raised in an enforced orthodoxy of hate and values so antithetical to the humanitarian values that so many in the West cherish, and have fought and died for. Instead, progressive Muslims and their imams should be promoted, consulted, and celebrated. They are the ones who should be invited to the official iftar dinners. They are the ones who should be courted, promoted and helped.
A.Z. Mohamed is a Muslim born and raised in the Middle East.