Long-time readers will recall the scandal surrounding Ayman Elkasrawy that erupted last February. Mr. Elkasrawy was the imam at Masjid Toronto, and was caught on video intoning a prayer in which he implored Allah to “purify Al-Aqsa Mosque from the filth of the Jews”:
O Allah! Destroy anyone who displaced the sons of the Muslims.
O Allah! Count their number; slay them one by one and spare not one of them.
O Allah! Purify Al-Aqsa Mosque from the filth of the Jews!
Even though reciting that prayer was business as usual at the mosque — it is recited frequently in mosques all over the world — news of the video gained traction and caused an uproar in Ontario. Mr. Elkasrawy was removed from his position at the mosque (he has since been reinstated), and forced to resign from his position as a teaching assistant at Ryerson University.
That was last winter. In the intervening months, Ayman Elkasrawy has been working hard to rehabilitate his reputation. The culmination of his efforts was a long puff-piece published on Sunday by The Toronto Star. It turns out that the imam didn’t really say it, and besides, it was a bad translation. He was misunderstood. Or something like that.
Robert Spencer has an exhaustive analysis of the whole affair at Jihad Watch. Here’s his summary:
An imam in Toronto, Ayman Elkasrawy, prayed that Allah would kill all the Jews. In a sane society, newspapers would be investigating the prevalence of Islamic antisemitism in the area mosques, and among Muslims in general. But this isn’t a sane society, this is Trudeau’s Canada. So instead of focusing on Islamic antisemitism, the Toronto Star has published this exhaustingly lengthy piece portraying Elkasrawy as the real victim, a shy, inarticulate lug who wouldn’t hurt a fly, especially a Jewish one, and whose words were mistranslated and misrepresented by racist, bigoted right-wing “Islamophobes.” He didn’t mean it, the Star tells us. In fact, says the Star’s Arabic experts, he didn’t even say it. If it weren’t for those wicked right-wingers, Ayman Elkasrawy and Jewish leaders in Toronto would be doing a happy multicultural dance together, but instead, the reputation of this good, gentle man has been unjustly sullied. But now here comes the Toronto Star to justify the ways of Elkasrawy to man, and reassure everyone about the glories of diversity.
This defense of the Elkasrawy Affair, like so many attempts to whitewash Islam, relies on the general perception that Arabic is mystical, intricate language of such subtlety and nuance that only a native speaker and a scholar can provide an accurate, meaningful translation. And, coincidentally, all such reliable translators just happen to be pious Muslims! Funny about that.
However, even The Star acknowledges that 80% of the world’s Muslims don’t understand Arabic. And some of those Muslims are devoutly observant. So how do they gain their understanding of what the scriptures and prayers mean? Surprise! They read versions in their own languages, translated by pious scholars who are fluent in Arabic.
The language most frequently used in Islamic instruction materials is actually English. That means that there must be numerous sources out there — provided by Muslims and intended for a Muslim audience — that could confirm or refute the “erroneous” translation used in the subtitles of the Masjid Toronto video.
But I’m getting ahead of myself — Robert Spencer will have plenty to say on this aspect of the Elkasrawy Affair. First let’s revisit the original video from Masjid Toronto:
Vlad Tepes interviewed Robert Spencer yesterday about this new phase of the Elkasrawy Affair:
Now let’s look at the article in The Toronto Star. Mr. Spencer covers it in great detail, but there are a few paragraphs I want to take note of:
But there is also enormous diversity within both groups [Muslims and Jews], which are sometimes the source of one another’s pain. There is mounting concern over anti-Semitism in certain corners of the Muslim world; meanwhile, Jewish people on the far right are among the loudest voices in the anti-Muslim movement. Israeli-Palestinian debates also have a tendency to slide into accusations of anti-Semitism or Islamophobia.
Notice the way Muslims and Jews are yoked together as victims. There’s anti-Semitism, and there’s Islamophobia. Both bad! We Muslims and Jews need to stick together!
And who were the “loudest voices”?
After the story broke, Masjid Toronto took all its videos offline but it was too late; a new, edited clip was posted on YouTube, crediting Halevi with its translation and referencing an extreme anti-Muslim ideology known as “counter-jihad.” The account hosting the clip also mentions “Vlad Tepes Blog” in its video description.
The “counter-jihad” is described by researchers as a loose network of people and groups united by the belief that Muslims are plotting to take over the West. A recent National Post investigation described Rebel News as a “global platform” for the counter-jihad, and linked Vlad Tepes Blog — regarded as a key website in the movement — to a frequent Rebel News contributor.
That’s my favorite part of the article. The Star told its readers exactly where to find the most reliable information on Islamization — at the “key website” Vlad Tepes. They didn’t leave a link, but, hey, Google is your best friend.
Concerning the misunderstood or mistranslated prayer:
“It changed their meaning in such a way as to promote the dangerous myths that violent extremism and hate are inherent to Islam,” [University of Toronto associate professor Atiqa] Hachimi said.
Elkasrawy also was not referring to Jewish people when he said “slay them one by one,” a line from the Hadith that is often invoked as a cry for divine justice. This line was misunderstood as being part of his prayer about Al-Aqsa mosque; in fact, it was the closing line in a previous supplication that he made on behalf of suffering Muslims around the world, Hachimi said.
As for “Purify the Al-Aqsa mosque from the filth of the Jews,” a more accurate translation is “Cleanse Al-Aqsa mosque from the Jews’ desecration of it,” according to Nazir Harb Michel, an Arabic sociolinguist and Islamophobia researcher at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.
He said “Jews” is widely used in the Arabic-speaking world to mean “Israeli forces” or “Israeli occupiers,” not as a sweeping reference to all ethnic and religious Jews…
OK. So it isn’t the Jews that need to be slain one by one, it’s those nasty Zionists. Thank you for explaining that, Dr. Michel.
But what did that prayer mean when the verses were first written back in the 7th century? Al-Aqsa was Muslim property then, and there were no Zionists. So who were those “occupiers” that needed to be “cleansed”?
Robert Spencer again:
Really? Actually, “filth” is a quite common translation of danas. Here is California imam Amar Shahin praying the same thing Elkasrawy prayed: “Oh Allah, liberate the Al-Aqsa Mosque from the filth of the Jews.” And al-Aqsa Mosque preacher Ali Abu Ahmad: “Oh Allah, protect the Al-Aqsa Mosque from the filth of the Jews!” And a Friday sermon from Gaza: “until this holy land is purified from the filth of the Jews.” And a Muslim preacher at al-Aqsa Mosque: “Don’t you care that the Jews are defiling the place of the Prophet’s nocturnal journey with their filth?” And another Muslim preacher, Omar Abu Sara: “Allah, hasten the day when the Al-Aqsa Mosque is cleansed of their [Jews] filth.” And a Friday sermon from Copenhagen: “[Allah] will liberate the Al-Aqsa Mosque from the filth of the Zionist.”
Skeptical about those translations, since they all come from the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), which the Toronto Star would probably characterize as “right-wing”? All right. Here is Hizb ut-Tahrir, the international Islamic organization dedicated to the implementation of the Sharia and restoration of the caliphate, in its own words in English, not translated by anyone: “Crush the Jewish entity and purify the holy land of their filth.” Hizb ut-Tahrir has also asked Muslims: “Don’t you yearn for the liberation of Al-Aqsa Mosque from the filth of the Jews?” It has called for “preserving the holy sites, and liberating Al-Aqsa Mosque and ridding it from the filth of the Jews.” It has asked: “Has it been purified by our armies from the filth of the usurping Jews?” Hizb ut-Tahrir has also written about “purifying for them the Earth from the filth of the oppressing Jews.” And: “We tell them, that the liberation of the blessed land from the filth of Jews is in your capacity.” And: “Is it not time for your large army chanting the Takbeer to liberate Al-Aqsa from the filth of the Jews.”
How striking that Hizb ut-Tahrir, a Muslim organization, would repeatedly use, in English, exactly the same expression that the Toronto Star is claiming is a mistranslation!
I don’t know how The Star would explain Hizb ut-Tahrir’s mistranslations from the Arabic. I don’t know how they would explain the lack of Zionists on the Temple Mount in the 7th century. I don’t know what they would think about the trees and rocks that call out to Muslims to come and kill the Jews that are hiding behind them.
All I know is that, gee, Ayman Elkasrawy sure is a nice guy and must have really been misunderstood. He is a victim of Islamophobia, just like Jews were victims during the Holocaust.
As Robert Spencer says, “So now we come to the real point of the Toronto Star article: when a Muslim prays for the killing of the Jews, it is Muslims who are the victims. As always.”
Vlad’s take on the controversy: Toronto Star explains he didn’t really mean what he meant and we are horrible for noticing he said it