Davis Mosque Responds to Controversial Sermon About the Jewish Community

DAVIS -- Families gathered at the Islamic Center of Davis for evening prayer Tuesday, but their Imam was not there.

"They will run and hide under rocks."

Those are  just some of the recent words from Imam Ammar Shahin which are now striking at the heart of Muslims who feel misunderstood and Jews who say they've been targeted with hate.

The sermon delivered by Shahin last Friday is one of thousands monitored by the D.C.-based, bi-partisan Middle East Media Research Institute over the last 19 years.

Steven Stalinsky directs the non-profit and here's what he says his translators discovered the Imam preached in Arabic and in some English.

"He made the statement talking about the annihilating of Jews and liberating Al Aqsa mosque and other things in there. I mean it's in his words. Um...there's nothing we translated that was mistranslated or put out of context. That's a common thing when people are caught saying something in Arabic that they did not want to be caught saying. That's what they say," explained Stalinksky.

And when the president of the Islamic Center of Davis stepped out of his mosque late Tuesday evening his defense of Imam Shahin did fall along those lines.

"The excerpts don't explain the full context of the Friday sermon itself. Those words were directed at oppressors...Israeli regimes that are oppressing Palestinians - not at Jews generally," said Amar Zedan.

Zedan stressed that Shahin was speaking about the current tension at the Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem and what some feel is the recent unfair treatment of Muslims there.

Since a fatal shooting there July 14, Palestinians have been forced to go through metal detectors in order to worship and other restrictions have been put in place.

Zedan says all of the controversy comes down to the mistranslation of an Arabic word for destroy Shahin specifically used to talk about that small group of specific oppressors at Al Aqsa, versus the general application of the word annihilate.

The city of Davis itself is known for its tolerance.

Where do things go from here - now that one of its houses of worship, one of its faith leaders has been accused of spewing hate?

"Our community is known to have strong ties to the Jewish community and to have that be tested and that be questioned is very stressful. It's been a really rough couple of days. We want to stress we do not have this animosity," said Zedan.

Imam Shahin has received hate emails and calls from all over the world since Starlinsky shared his group's translation of his sermon, but Zedan says none of them have come from people in Davis.

He also says that his community of believers has reached out to the Jewish groups they've worked closely with over the years and that they've received positive response after explaining the mistranslation.

Sacramento Region Jewish Federation Responds, Palestinians Protest in Sacramento 

They're fighting for a cause that's rooted in a conflict 7,300 miles away, but some Palestinians in the capitol city say every Sacramentan should care about what's happening there.

Human rights activists took to the corner of 16th and J streets downtown to press for a message of fairness and tolerance when it comes to places of worship.

After a deadly shooting at Jerusalem's Al Aqsa  mosque,  Muslims are now being forced through metal detectors before being allowed to enter.

Believers with the Palestine American League say this is no way to deal with a people of faith, especially since the mosque was already under heavy guard.

According to them, the shooting was a set-up and one that Americans shouldn't stand for since the U.S. sends $10 million to Israel each day.

"How did they make it all the way thorough? It's suspicious! And so what we think is that this is a ploy. This is a pre-determined plan to take over the city by implanting people to make things worse," said Adeeb Alzanoon.

Alzanoon wants other voters to pressure their federal lawmakers to use the 'carrot and stick' approach with that daily $10 million to get the restrictions at the mosque loosened.

Update: Israel has removed the metal detectors near the mosque.