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April 23, 2018 8:24 am

US-Based Imam Advocates Violence Against Israel and Jews in Antisemitic Sermon

avatar by Steven Emerson


The Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Photo: Andrew Shiva via Wikimedia Commons.

An extremist imam used a recent Friday prayer to call on Muslims and Palestinians to disavow non-violent protest against Israel. But the imam was not preaching in the West Bank or Gaza Strip. He was yet another spiritual leader espousing radical views in the United States, joining a long list of other US-based Muslim leaders who have promoted antisemitism and incited violence against Jews and Israelis.

Mohamed Elbar, an imam at the Islamic Society of Bay Ridge (a.k.a. Masjid Musab), delivered a sermon in Brooklyn on April 13 that amounted to violent incitement.

Elbar was not trying to keep this views confined to a private setting of committed individuals. On the contrary, his sermon was live-streamed on the Islamic Society’s official Facebook page, broadcast publicly to its followers and translated by the Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT). It remained accessible as of the initial publication of this article.

Elbar reserved harsh criticism for some unidentified imams and preachers who he said issued religious decrees (fatwas) calling for non-violence against Israel.

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He said that too “many imams in our diverse Arab countries” are issuing fatwas that prohibit violent resistance against Israel.

“They [other imams] tell them [individuals in the Palestinian territories]: ‘You don’t have the kind of weaponry that the Zionist entity has, so it’s not right for you to stand up to the Zionist entity, because if you stand up to them and get killed by the Zionist entity, it’s as if you killed yourself,'” Elbar preached.

After denouncing non-violent protest, Elbar rhetorically asked his congregation: “So what should we do? How are we going to defend our land?”

Through such vicious criticism, Elbar is encouraging violence and promoting terrorism.

He warned that if Palestinians and Muslims “give up” the fight against Israel, then Israelis will destroy the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. He also engaged in antisemitic historical revisionism by claiming that the Jews will rebuild a “Temple of no value and no historical evidence” over the mosque’s ruins.

“[The Al Aqsa Mosque] will get demolished if we abandoned it and an alleged Temple of no value and no historical evidence of its existence would be built to replace it,” Elbar claimed.

Propagating such a destructive scenario is a form of violent incitement, especially since previous false allegations of Israeli changes to the religious status quo in Jerusalem have led to outbreaks in Palestinian violence. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas espoused a similar view in the past, which encouraged a wave of Palestinian stabbing attacks and terrorism in Jerusalem and surrounding areas.

Elbar, who is also a professor of Islamic Studies at the Graduate Theological Foundation and teaches “Da’wah related courses” (proselytizing Islam) at the Manara Institute, has a history of making radical statements.

In a December 8 sermon, Elbar referred to Jerusalem “as a sole Islamic property,” denying any Jewish or Christian ties to the city. Finally, Elbar prayed for “Allah to liberate Palestine from the occupiers [Jews].”

In 2014, the Investigative Project on Terrorism covered a rally organized by the Egyptian Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in front of the Saudi consulate in New York City featuring Elbar as a speaker. The attendees called for Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammed Morsi to be reinstated as Egypt’s president. Elbar led chants accusing the Saudi king of “selling Egypt to the Jews” while members of the crowd chanted that the Saudis were “dirtier than the Jews.”

Elbar’s history of antisemitic and radical Islamist preaching resembles extremist sentiment embraced by other imams in the United States.

For example, Sheikh Raed Saleh Al-Rousan, the founder of the Tajweed Institute’s Houston branch, used a December 8 sermon to repeat a notorious Quranic hadith that radical preachers often invoke to mobilize Muslims against Jews.

That same day, Sheikh Aymen Elkasaby from the Islamic Center of Jersey City called for the destruction of “the plunderer oppressors (Jews).”

“So long as the Al Aqsa Mosque remains prisoner in the hands of the Jews … so long as the Al Aqsa Mosque remains under the feet of the apes and pigs, this nation will remain humiliated,” Elkasaby preached, adding that he wishes to achieve “martyrdom on the threshold of the Al Aqsa Mosque.”

In another instance, a Texas-based imam, Sheikh Ramadan Elsabagh, called for Israel’s destruction in a recorded prayer posted to his Facebook page on December 7, according to an IPT translation.

American Islamist groups have remained silent in the wake of these sermons, and have not outright condemned the imams’ behavior. Now, Elbar joins a growing list of radical US-based Muslim leaders who continuously espouse extremist views. Muslim leaders who explicitly glorify terrorism against Jews deserve more scrutiny in American media and political circles.

A video of Elbar’s sermon can be viewed at the Investigative Project on Terrorism’s website, where this article first appeared.

Steven Emerson is considered one of the leading authorities on Islamic extremist networks, financing and operations. He serves as the Executive Director of the Investigative Project on Terrorism, a non-profit organization that serves one of the world’s largest storehouses of archival data and intelligence on Islamic and Middle Eastern terrorist groups. 

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