Jews and Muslims tour holocaust sites together

Prominent Muslims and Jews from the United States made a pilgrimage to visit two Nazi concentration camps last week.

The trip to Dachau and Auschwitz was designed to combat the rise in Holocaust denial that has popped up in various Muslim and non-Muslim circles around the world—and online—in recent years. The trip also was a way for Jews and Muslims to build bridges at a time when religion is used a political wedge or as an excuse for violence.

Religion News Service reports:

“The best way to convince someone about the truth of something is to let them see it for themselves and experience it for themselves,” said Rabbi Jack Bemporad of the Center for Interreligious Understanding in Carlstadt, who organized the trip.

“I feel that it was important to take Muslim leaders who have a really significant following in the American-Muslim community.”

Some of the eight imams on the weeklong trip, which ended Aug. 12, had previously worked with Jewish groups in interreligious dialogue. Only one of the eight, Shaikh Yasir Qadhi of New Haven, Conn., academic dean for the AlMaghrib Institute, had been quoted doubting the extent of the Holocaust in 2001, but he recanted long before the trip, saying his past views were based on misinformation.

On their return, the eight imams released a statement citing the 6 million Jewish deaths in the Holocaust, among 12 million Holocaust deaths overall. It added, “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.”

In interviews, the imams said the trip affected them deeply.

“The experience was overwhelming,” Qadhi said. “It was a very moving experience for all of us imams, in particular myself. I had never seen anything like this. I was just overwhelmed throughout the entire trip. I was just overwhelmed at the sheer inhumanity of it. I could not comprehend how such evil could be unleashed.”

Like other imams, he said the historical truth of the Holocaust should not be distorted by the last 60 years of tensions in the Middle East.

“Politics should not play a role in historical facts,” Qadhi said. “Whatever happened post-Holocaust should not diminish the evil that was the Holocaust. … The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is very complicated. Let’s leave anti-Semitism out of it.”

CNN reports on the joint statement issued by the visiting Imams.

In their recently issued joint statement, the Muslim leaders said they “witnessed firsthand the historical injustice of the Holocaust” and cited the Quran in their message: “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.”

“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,” the group said in a statement.

“We bear witness to the absolute horror and tragedy of the Holocaust where over twelve million human souls perished, including six million Jews,” the Muslim leaders said in their statement. “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. 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,” the statement said.

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