WASHINGTON, DC / ACCESSWIRE / March 13, 2019 / Following MEMRI's March 6, 2019 publication of a report on antisemitic sermons delivered by Imam Abdelmohsen Abouhatab at the Al-Aqsa Islamic Society in Philadelphia, PA between November 2018 and February 2019, Al-Aqsa Islamic Society officials issued an apology.
On March 8, 2019, Board of Trustees secretary Chukri Khorchid and Imam Mohamed Shehata posted on the Al-Aqsa Islamic Society website: "Al Aqsa Islamic Society rejects anti-Semitism in any form. 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."
While the mosque statement noted "We are shocked and outraged to learn that one of our guest speakers" had made these statements, at the conclusion of Abouhatab's January 11, 2019 sermon, as worshipers prepared to leave, a mosque leader, likely Imam Mohamed Shehata himself, took the microphone and said: "On behalf of all of you, I would like to extend our gratitude to Sheikh Abdelmohsen Abouhattab for this good sermon." Similar expressions of gratitude by the same mosque leader were repeated after each of Abouhatab's sermons.
On March 9, Imam Abouhatab issued a "Public Statement" on his website, English and Arabic, denying that his statements were antisemitic, citing Quran verses and stating, in English: "I am not against any religion and what was attributed to me is completely false. I do not promote hate, nor do I insight [sic] violence. The religion of Islam calls me to living peacefully alongside others who share different faiths, and to never transgress against the rights of others, while always speaking the words of truth when need be and under the shade of the law."
As highlighted in the MEMRI report, the Al-Aqsa Islamic Society is known for interfaith activity and for working with Philadelphia mayors Michael Nutter (D) and Jim Kenney (D), the ADL and other Jewish organizations, the FBI, law enforcement, and more, including participation in a November 2018 "Securing Sacred Spaces and Places" summit in Philadelphia hosted by the ADL, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania (USAO), and the Delaware Valley Intelligence Center (DVIC), at which Chukri Korchid spoke.
To date, only the ADL has spoken out about Imam Abouhatab's statements, the mosque's apology, and Abouhatab's subsequent denial. Following Abouhatab's denial, the ADL issued a statement calling it "flying in the face of multiple expert translations" and said he was "shamefully unrepentant for spouting anti-Jewish hate." It added that the organization had conferred with the city's Commission on Human Relations about the incident and that it would continue its interfaith work with Al-Aqsa as the mosque investigates the sermons. Additionally, as of this writing, the videos of Abouhatab's sermons that MEMRI translated remain on the mosque's YouTube channel.
MEMRI Lantos Project Mission To Expose Antisemitism And To Educate
The Lantos Antisemitism Documentation Project documents antisemitic themes in Arabic, Farsi, Urdu-Pashtu, and Turkish newspaper reports, editorials, and other media sources. This project maintains the Lantos Antisemitism and Holocaust Denial Archives, which is the largest archive in the world of translated antisemitic content from the Middle East from the past decade.
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