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American Muslim leaders back from Auschwitz

August 23, 2010

Our friend and colleague Dr. Sayyid Syeed just sent me an email on his return from Auschwitz, where he and other American Imams and Islamic community leaders visited that Holocaust site.

Dr. Syeed linked his email to Laura Rozen’s Politico blog about their trip.  The joint statement of the American Imams and Muslim leaders follows:

August 7 – 11, eight of the most influential Imams and Muslim leaders in the U.S. made an historic trip to concentration camps in Germany and Poland. The trip was led by Rabbi Jack Bemporad of the Center for Interreligious Understanding (NJ), Prof.Marshall Breger, and co-sponsored by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation (Germany). The Holocaust is a stark reminder for everyone — of the dangers of prejudice and religious intolerance. As a result of their profound experience at the Dachau and Auschwitz concentration camps, with a united voice these prominent Muslim leaders issue the following unprecedented statement:

Statement of Muslim American Imams & 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.

•Imam Muzammil Siddiqi, Islamic Society of Orange County, CA and chairman of the Fiqh Council of North America
•Imam Muhamad Maged, All-Dulles-Area Muslim Society, Dulles, Virginia and Vice President of the Islamic Society of North America
•Dr. Sayyid M. Syeed, National Director of the Islamic Society of North America’s Office of Interfaith & Community Services, Washington, D.C.
•Imam Suhaib Webb, Muslim Community Association, Santa Clara, CA
•Ms. Laila Muhammad, daughter of the late Imam W.D. Muhammad of Chicago, IL
•Shaikh Yasir Qadhi, Dean of Academics for the Al Maghrib Institute, New Haven, CT
•Imam Syed Naqvi, Director of the Islamic Information Center in Washington, DC
•Imam Abdullah T. Antepli, Muslim Chaplain, Duke University

Our Muslim colleagues’ journey to Auschwitz exceeded the geographic distance that they traveled.  They bridged an abyss of fear and hate which has too long separated religious communities here and abroad.  While some in America today fuss and fume to stoke that fear and seek political profit from hate speech about Islam, I applaud Dr. Syeed and others of his delegation for daring to break the downward spiral of fear and for exercising the courage to build that bridge of understanding and compassion. — JV

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