The board of trustees of a mosque in North Philadephia known for its activism in the world of interfaith advocacy has posted a public apology on the home page of its website over the content of three months of vicious anti-Semitic sermons delivered by a guest imam beginning last November.

The imam – Abdelmohsen Abouhatab – is an Islamic cleric of Egyptian origin. He delivered Arabic-language sermons in November, January and February at the mosque. (The sermons are translated in the video below, courtesy of MEMRI, the Middle East Media Research Institute.)

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The statement of apology, signed by Al Aqsa Islamic Society board secretary Chukri Khorchid, was posted after the organization was contacted by the local Anti-Defamation League (ADL) in Philadelphia. The mosque leadership told ADL officials they were already investigating the sermons and that hate “against Jews or any group” would not be tolerated, The Inquirer reported.

“Al Aqsa Islamic Society rejects anti-Semitism in any form,” the statement reads. “We are shocked and outraged to learn that one of our guest speakers said reprehensible anti-Jewish remarks on the floor of Al Aqsa. This in no way represents our beliefs or policies. We condemn this action and will make sure that this never happens again. We expect that all guest speakers will respect and uphold our policy that hatred against any group of people or religion will not be tolerated.”

The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) has translated excerpts of the anti-Semitic sermons by Abouhatab. They were graphic, violent, and filled with incitement against Jews and against Israel.

On February 15, 2019, Abouhatab said the Jews are “the vilest people” in terms of their nature and moral values and that the “nefarious” Jewish media causes people to see Muslims as “oppressive and predatory lions.” He said that the “enemies of Allah” are ordering heads of state to come to the Knesset, where they sit and “plot against their people, according to what the others want.”

Abouhatab then told his audience that in one of Israel’s wars, former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin had once made bets on whether a pregnant woman was carrying a boy or a girl before slitting her belly open to find out. He added: “If faith had taken root in our hearts… we would have imposed the word of Islam upon the world.”

On January 11, 2018, Imam Abouhatab said that the propaganda and media are controlled by the Jews, who make people think that “power lies with 15 million people who own and control the riches of the world.”

On November 16, 2018, Imam Abouhatab said that an Israeli prime minister had once been asked about the hadith about the rocks and the trees calling to Muslims to kill the Jews hiding behind them, and that he had answered: “The hadith is true, but we are doing our best to prevent this.”

The Al-Aqsa Islamic Society has been involved in many interfaith activities. It has hosted Philadelphia’s Interfaith Peace Walk since 2003, and has a full-time private Islamic school called Al-Aqsa Islamic Academy. In October 2018, the Al-Aqsa Islamic Society posted to its Facebook page a condemnation of the shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, in which it called for people of faith to stand united in condemnation of the attack.

However, these sermons were streamed live on the mosque’s YouTube channel.

It is difficult to believe that the board of trustees of the mosque which invited the imam to deliver sermons to its congregation – not once or even twice, but THREE times consecutively – did not realize just how vicious and inciting his message was.

When one takes into account the fact that a statement of apology did not appear on the website of the mosque until after an English-language translation and media spotlight was focused on the content of the imam’s sermons – plus the added incentive provided by a phone call from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) – the sincerity of the Society’s “rejection of anti-Semitism in any form” just seems a little bit forced. The statement that the board is “shocked and outraged” to learn the content of three sermons delivered by an imam whose sermons obviously could not have been strikingly different from any of his past material, is just frankly just more grist for the mill.

Sad to see – or perhaps simply naive to believe – in an Islamic setting so highly respected as an “advocate” for interfaith dialogue and activism.

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