A New Jersey imam who delivered two violently antisemitic sermons over the last month is to be sent for “retraining,” the president of the Islamic center where he serves announced on Thursday.
Ahmed Shedeed said that Sheikh Aymen Elkasaby, imam of the Islamic Center of Jersey City, would be meeting with “interfaith scholars” who would “consult with and retrain him,” following sermons in which Elkasaby called for the murder of Jews and attacked the west for having made Muslims the “tail-end of all nations.”
“This is like sending someone to rehab,” Shedeed, the Islamic Center’s president, told The Algemeiner when asked whether Elkasaby would be dismissed from the imam’s position.
“The scholars will help him to learn to deal with these issues,” Shedeed said – adding that Elkasaby had spoken “in the heat of the moment” following US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital on December 6. Shedeed also emphasized that Elkasaby was a graduate of the renowned Al-Azhar University in Cairo, which he described as “one of the major universities in the Muslim world facing terrorism and violence.”
In a December 8 sermon made available by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), which monitors extremist groups, Elkasaby declared, “So long as the Al-Aqsa Mosque remains a humiliated prisoner under the oppression of the Jews, this nation will never prevail.”
“Allah, wreak vengeance upon the plundering oppressors!” the imam continued. “Count them one by one, and kill them down to the very last one. Do not leave a single one on the face of the Earth.”
Elkasaby also invoked a common Islamist trope about Jews in his December 8 sermon, describing the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem’s Old City as being “under the feet of the apes and pigs.”
Asked about Elkasaby’s use of an Islamist term to insult Jews, Shedeed replied, “I’ve heard that expression many times.”
“Any Muslim who uses that phrase, he misunderstands the Qu’ran, he is not knowledgable, and I told this to the imam,” Shedeed said. At the same time, he added, the imam was talking to an audience from a variety of backgrounds, “and everyone can receive what he says in different ways.”
“There are extremists in the Jewish, Christian and Buddhist religions and everything can be taken in the wrong way,” Shedeed said. Throughout the exchange concerning Elkabasy’s comments, Shedeed stressed the continuous presence of the Islamic Center in Jersey City over forty years, and its commitment to interfaith work with Jewish, Christian and other religious communities.
Among the admirers of Shedeed’s interfaith work is New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker (D), who said in January 2016 that “his life and his work are examples of how the diversity of America makes us all better.” Shedeed has also served as a member of the New Jersey Homeland Security Interfaith Advisory Council.
Shedeed said he was not made aware of Elkasaby’s December 8 speech until four days ago, when he received a worried email from a friend who serves as the rabbi of a nearby Jewish community. He said that he had not been present when Elkasaby delivered the sermon.
Asked about an earlier November 24 sermon – in which Elkasaby angrily recycled the conspiracy theory that Israel planned the gruesome terrorist assault on the Al-Rawda mosque in Sinai in which more than 300 worshippers lost their lives – Shedeed said he had not seen these comments, and would look into them.
According to MEMRI’s transcript of the November 24 sermon, Elkasaby asserted: “Some people condemn the attack, saying that it was done by ISIS terrorists.”
He continued: “Enough! Stop being ridiculous! They’ve made fools out of us with stories of ISIS and similar groups. By Allah, this could only have been done by the enemies of Islam – the Jews and their subordinates from among the Muslim rulers.”
In the same sermon, Elkasaby slammed the Sunni Arab countries locked in a bitter dispute with Qatar – a major supporter of Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood – praising Qatar for its “defense of the Al-Aqsa Mosque.” He ended by protesting that the west had “made our nation abandon Jihad, and now it is at the tail-end of all nations.”
(C) 2017 . The Algemeiner . Ben Cohen