California Muslim leader apologizes for remarks about Jews

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DAVIS, Calif. (AP) — An imam in Northern California who gave a widely criticized sermon last week about tensions over a holy site in Jerusalem apologized Friday for his remarks.

Imam Ammar Shahin apologized during a news conference Friday in Davis, California, saying he let his emotions cloud his judgment, the Los Angeles Times reported (

In a July 21 sermon, Shahin condoned the annihilation of Jews and those restricting access to the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Israeli officials installed metal detectors at the mosque's entrances after Arab gunmen on July 14 shot and killed two police officers in the site that is holy to both Muslims and Jews. The move outraged Muslims and sparked some of the worst street clashes in years. Five Palestinians died in the past week and scores were wounded in violent clashes with Israeli security forces over the holy site.

Friday prayers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque attended by tens of thousands ended peacefully.

Shahin's sermon to worshippers at the Islamic Center of Davis set off a firestorm of criticism after a videotaped excerpt was translated and distributed.

"I said things that were hurtful to Jews. This was unacceptable," Shahin said, flanked by religious and community leaders during a news conference in that was part of an effort to ease tensions.

"I hope to grow and develop as a more worthy leader in the community," he added.

Rabbi Seth Castleman of Davis thanked Shahin for his words and asked him to follow through with actions. "Apologies are only as worthy as the actions that follow, so I call upon you. I implore you to follow those words with actions," Castleman said.

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