As a California religious leader was delivering his sermon, he preached that it was the duty of his followers to “annihilate” the unbelievers. However, despite his claim that he had only “exercised his First Amendment right,” he was in for a big surprise.
Thanks to our Founding Fathers, America is the only nation to fully enjoy the right to free speech. In fact, ours is the only constitution that outlines this innate and inalienable freedom as coming straight from our Creator and not the government, ensuring that our political officials can never take it away from us.
However, there are always limits to our freedoms. Should the practice of our rights create externalities that threaten the rights of others, then these practices are not protected by the Constitution. Perhaps the most common example of freedom of speech crossing over into illegal territory is the call to violence, which threatens the physical safety of others.
When Ammar Shahin was recorded telling the congregation of the Islamic Center of Davis to kill the Jews, he immediately cited his freedom of speech, as protected by the First Amendment. Unfortunately for him, the controversial imam quickly discovered that incitement to violence is not covered by the Bill of Rights.
According to CBS Sacramento, countless outraged citizens have made a call to action of their own — felony hate crime charges against Shahin and police surveillance of the mosque that has supported his incitement of violence against the Jewish community. Since the release of the entire transcript of his controversial sermon, thousands have demanded that Shahin be prosecuted for inciting racial and religious hate crimes against Jews.
The sermon in question was translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), which initially released snippets of Shahin’s outrageous calls to violence. The message comes to a disturbing head when Shahin quotes the hadith’s warning that the anticipated Day of Judgement will not come until the Muslims have finally annihilated every last Jew, CBN News reports.
“The Prophet Muhammed said: ‘Judgment Day will not come until the Muslims fight the Jews…Oh Allah, count them one by one and annihilate them down to the very last one. Do not spare any of them…Oh, Allah, make this happen by our hands. Let us play a part in this. Oh Allah, let us support them in words and deeds.”
When his words sparked outrage, the mosque quickly released a statement claiming that MEMRI had incorrectly translated Shahin’s sermon and that the preacher had “exercised his First Amendment right.” Additionally, they claimed that he had prayed for Allah to “destroy” the Jews rather than “annihilate” them, claiming that it was not a call to violence but a “supplication that is generally used against oppressors.”
The mosque’s assertions prompted MEMRI to release the entire transcript and video of Shahin’s sermon, proving their accusations wrong. Despite the mosque’s claim “that the conflict is not with Jews or any specific group of people,” MEMRI revealed a section in which Shahin specifically refers to “a war of faith” against the Jews, according to Breitbart.
Shahin was eventually forced to reply to the allegations, immediately rejecting the notion that he is anti-Semitic or hateful in any way. Still, his response was met with criticism claiming that he didn’t actually apologize and instead trivialized his threats.
“I let my emotions get the best of me and cloud my better judgment,” Shahin said. “I said things that were hurtful to Jews. This was unacceptable.”
The video stoked fear in the Jewish community since Jews suffer the majority of hate crimes in the United States. Rabbi Shmary Brownstein and his wife Sorele, who are the leaders of Chabad in Davis, explained that the Jewish community has had to be extra cautious since the release of the video.
“He spelled out what he wishes for every Muslim who follows the Quran and the Hadith to follow what the Hadith says which is …find the Jews hiding behind trees and stones and kill them,” said Sorele Brownstein.
“To me, it’s clear this is direct incitement,” said Shmary Brownstein.
Shahin continues to preach at the Davis mosque and teaches a marriage course at the University of California Davis. He has not even had an investigation opened into his statements, nor have the police suggested that they will look into the case.