Jersey City imam to be ‘retrained’

Jersey City imam to be ‘retrained’

Call for change comes after he hoped, in sermon, that all Jews die

Sheikh Aymen Elkasaby gives a sermon at the Islamic Center in Jersey City. (MEMRI)
Sheikh Aymen Elkasaby gives a sermon at the Islamic Center in Jersey City. (MEMRI)

It is fair to say that Sheikh Aymen Elkasaby, the imam of the Islamic Center of Jersey City, doesn’t particularly like Jews. He also is not a big fan of President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

We know that because Memri — the Middle East Media Research Institute, an organization that translates speeches and documents from Arabic, Persian, Turkish, and other Middle Eastern languages to English — has provided transcripts of his talks.

We also know that his rant did not go unaddressed by his community.

Last week, enraged by Trump’s decision on Jerusalem, Sheikh Elkasaby let loose.

The Jews “are the most cowardly of nations,” he told his congregation, Memri tells us. “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.” (Note that “apes and pigs,” in this shorthand of hate, are Jews.)

Later, again according to Memri, Sheikh Elkasaby asked that Allah give him “martyrdom on the threshold of the Al-Aqsa Mosque” and asked Allah to annihilate “the plunderer oppressors.” down to the very last one.

“Don’t tell me that Israel is a superpower,” Memri tells us that Sheikh Elkasaby implored his congregation. “Don’t tell me Israel has an army that cannot be defeated. Says who? Says who?” Purportedly quoting the Quran on Jews, he continued, “They will not fight you all except within fortified cities or from behind walls.

“They are the most cowardly of nations. They are the weakest of all peoples.”

At the end of the sermon, he led a call and response. Memri translates it thusly:

Sheikh Elkasaby: “Oh Allah, bring Al-Aqsa back into the fold of Islam and the Muslims!”

Congregation: “Amen.”

Sheikh Elkasaby: “Allah, make us among Your armies.”

Congregation: “Amen.”

Sheikh Elkasaby: “Allah, we ask You to grant us martyrdom on the threshold of Al-Aqsa Mosque.”

Congregation: “Amen.”

Sheikh Elkasaby: “Allah, we ask You to grant us martyrdom on the threshold of Al-Aqsa Mosque.”

Congregation: “Amen.”

Sheikh Elkasaby: “We ask You to let us pray in [Al-Aqsa’s] courts and to be martyred on its threshold.”

Congregation: “Amen.”

Sheikh Elkasaby: “Allah, wreak vengeance upon the plundering oppressors!”

Congregation: “Amen.”

Sheikh Elkasaby: “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.”

This was not the first such sermon Sheikh Elkasaby has given. The Times of Israel quotes from another Memri report to tell us that in November, Sheikh Elkasaby said the idea that the terror attack at the Al-Rawda Mosque in the Sinai Peninsula that killed more than 300 Sufi worshippers was carried out by the Islamic State was “ridiculous.”

No, he said. The murders “could only have been done by the enemies of Islam — the Jews and their subordinates from among the Muslim rulers.”

In reality, the attack most likely was from the Islamic State or its allies, who do not like the Sufis.

But Sheikh Elkasaby met with resistance from within his own community as well as from outside it.

The Islamic Center of Jersey City’s president, Ahmed Shedeed, announced that Elkasaby would meet with “interfaith scholars” who would “consult with and retrain him,” according to the statement.

“This is like sending someone to rehab,” Mr. Shedeed told the Algemeiner, the New York-based Chabad-supported Jewish news site. “The scholars will help him to learn to deal with these issues.”

Mr. Shedeed is active in interfaith work; he’s been a member of the New Jersey Homeland Security Interfaith Advisory Council. And the Algemeiner reported that Mr. Shedeed “was New Jersey Senator Cory Booker’s honored guest at President Barack Obama’s 2016 State of the Union address.”

And he does interfaith work at his own mosque. “Last month,” the Algemeiner said, “Shedeed’s Islamic Center also hosted a gathering of religious leaders from the Baha’i, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, and Sikh communities.”

Mr. Shedeed hadn’t been at either of Sheikh Elkasaby’s controversial sermons, he reported; in fact, he said, he’d only heard about them from a friend — a rabbi.

Jersey City’s Mayor Steven Fulop, who is Jewish, was cautious in his response to the situation.

“Jersey City is one of the most diverse cities in the nation, and as an administration we have held our values of inclusion, acceptance and celebration of differences above all else,” he wrote in an email to the Jewish Standard. “We know that our residents share these values, and as a city, we stand together against instances of hate and division, whether they occur on a federal level or a local one.

“There is no place for intolerance among the hundreds of thousands of diverse residents who call Jersey City home.”

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