Muslim American Society investigating controversial event at Philly Islamic center

The national Muslim American Society is investigating an event at a Philadelphia Islamic center where children sang violent lyrics, an incident the organization calls “an unintended mistake and an oversight,” the Philadelphia Inquirer reported Sunday.

Video recently surfaced on social media, including Facebook, showing children at the Muslim American Society Islamic Center in North Philadelphia, speaking and singing in Arabic as part of an “Ummah Day” celebration on Apr. 17. One girl says “we will chop off their heads” to “liberate the sorrowful and exalted Al-Aqsa Mosque” in Jerusalem, according to the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), a Middle East monitoring organization.

“Ummah” is an Arabic word that can mean “community” or “nation.”

MEMRI reported that in one video, a girl said: “We will defend the land of divine guidance with our bodies, and we will sacrifice our souls without hesitation. We will lead the army of Allah fulfilling his promise, and we will subject them to eternal torture.” MEMRI said the videos were initially posted on Islamic center’s Facebook page but had apparently been removed. The Inquirer and Metro have not independently verified the translations that appear in MEMRI’s report.

“While we celebrate the coming together of different cultures and languages, not all songs were properly vetted,” the Muslim American Society said in a statement on Friday. “This was an unintended mistake and an oversight in which the center and the students are remorseful. MAS will conduct an internal investigation to ensure this does not occur again.”

“We stand resolutely in our condemnation of hate, bigotry, Islamophobia, xenophobia, racism, anti-Semitism and all the illnesses of hate that plague our society,” MAS said in the statement.

The Philadelphia branch of the Anti-Defamation League called the incident “extremely disturbing.”

“Children should not be indoctrinated to hate,” the ADL said in a statement. “These young people should never have been asked to make speeches and dance and lip-sync to songs that glorify violence against Jews and the State of Israel. The conflict between Israelis and Palestinians is deeply complex and painful on all sides, and the only chance for a peaceful future is to teach our children to pursue peace.”

Based in Washington, MAS has more than 50 chapters across the country. The organization owns the Philly building that hosted the event and leases it to the center’s operator, the Inquirer reported.

In an follow-up statement on Saturday, MAS said “the person in charge” of the event had been “dismissed” and that the organization “will form a local commission to aid in sensitivity training and proper oversight for future programs.”

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