The Sister Rose Thering Fund COLLOQUIUM
MUSLIMS BEAR WITNESS TO THE HOLOCAUST:
A JOURNEY TO MUTUAL AFFIRMATION
Sunday, November 14, 2010
Sunday, November 14, 2010, 2 p.m.
Jubilee Hall Auditorium
Seton Hall University
400 South Orange Avenue
South Orange, NJ 07079
Rabbi Jack Bemporad
Center for Interreligious Understanding
Imam Abdullah Antepli
Professor Marshall Breger
Professor of Law
Catholic University School of Law
This past August, Professor Marshall Breger organized an unprecedented mission to the death camps at Dachau and Auschwitz led by Rabbi Jack Bemporad for eight influential Imams. The reactions were life-changing.
At the end of the service, prayer leader Muzammil Siddiqi, imam of the Islamic Society of Orange County, California, offered up an additional prayer: “We pray to God that this will not happen to the Jewish people or to any people anymore.”
Siddiqi was one of eight American Muslim leaders on a study tour to Dachau and Auschwitz that was co-sponsored by a German think tank and the Center for Interreligious Understanding, a New Jersey-based interfaith dialogue group. The delegation’s sole female member was Laila Muhammad, daughter of the late American Muslim leader W.D. Muhammad and granddaughter of Elijah Muhammad, the late leader of the Nation of Islam.
The unusual trip was the brainchild of Marshall Breger, an Orthodox Jew and a Republican who served as a senior official in the administrations of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. Breger, who wore his yarmulke on every leg of the trip, said he first had the idea of organizing the expedition last year, while he was in Israel during the visit of Pope Benedict XVI. He described it simply as a kind of eureka moment.
“There is a view that there is growing anti-Semitism in the Muslim world, reinforced by people like President [Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad, that there is growing Holocaust denial in the Muslim world,” explained Breger, now a law professor at Catholic University. “In light of that, the idea was to offer education to those who might not have the kind of knowledge that we’ve had about World War II and the Jewish community, and to do this in a public way.”
It is impossible to know what the long-term impact of such a trip will be. But if the heartfelt comments of the trip participants — including some with a history of previous statements that many Jews view as problematic — are any guide, Breger did not underestimate the value of direct experience in promoting education, understanding and even, perhaps, change.
Indeed, it was not hard to imagine that some of the Muslim delegates might be viewed as imperfect candidates for dialogue by Jews wary of discussions with those they see as Islamists or as prone to extremist views.
Emerging from the crematorium at Auschwitz-Birkenau, the delegates signed a memorial book. One of the inscriptions, from Sayyid M. Syeed, an interfaith activist, read, “For Muslims to see the Holocaust is an overwhelming experience.” It went on to quote a verse in the Quran stating that though man was created by God in excellent form, he is capable of becoming the lowest of the low.
In some of their most sensitive discussions, several delegates grappled with the issue of how to present the truth of the Holocaust in a way that would be accepted and taken to heart by their congregants.
Statement of Muslim American Imams and Community Leaders on Holocaust Denial
‘O you who believe, stand up firmly for justice as witnesses to Almighty God.” (Holy Qu’ran, al-Nisa “The Women” 4:135)
On August 7-11, 2010, we the undersigned Muslim American faith and community leaders visited Dachau and Auschwitz concentration camps where we witnessed firsthand the historical injustice of the Holocaust.
We met survivors who, several decades later, vividly and bravely shared their horrific experience of discrimination, suffering, and loss. We saw the many chilling places where men, women and children were systematically and brutally murdered by the millions because of their faith, race, disability and political affiliation.
In Islam, the destruction of one innocent life is like the destruction of the whole of humanity and the saving of one life is like the saving of the whole of humanity (Holy Qu’ran, al-Ma’idah “the Tablespread” 5:32). While entire communities perished by the many millions, we know that righteous Muslims from Bosnia, Turkey, Tunisia, Morocco, and Albania saved many Jews from brutal repression, torture and senseless destruction.
We bear witness to the absolute horror and tragedy of the Holocaust where over twelve million human souls perished, including six million Jews.
We condemn any attempts to deny this historical reality and declare such denials or any justification of this tragedy as against the Islamic code of ethics.
We condemn anti-Semitism in any form. No creation of Almighty God should face discrimination based on his or her faith or religious conviction.
We stand united as Muslim American faith and community leaders and recognize that we have a shared responsibility to continue to work together with leaders of all faiths and their communities to fight the dehumanization of all peoples based on their religion, race or ethnicity. With the disturbing rise of anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and other forms of hatred, rhetoric and bigotry, now more than ever, people of faith must stand together for truth.
Together, we pledge to make real the commitment of “never again” and to stand united against injustice wherever it may be found in the world today.