Muslim leaders pay visit to Auschwitz together with survivors, statesmen and Christian clerics

A large delegation of Muslim leaders has visited Auschwitz to pay tribute to the millions of Jews and others killed in the Holocaust. The group of some 150 people included representatives from Morocco, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq, as well as rabbis, Holocaust survivors and Christian representatives such as Cardinals André Vingt-Trois of Paris and Stanislaw Dziwisz of Krakow. Several European statesmen also were part of the group, including the former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoë.

"Muslims have to stand up with Jewish friends because in Europe, anti-Semitism is rising - and where there is anti-Semitism, Islamophobia is not far away," said Imam Abduljalil Sajid of Britain. Sajid said he knew of the Holocaust from books and movies but that it was his first visit to Auschwitz. "I wanted to see it with my own eyes – and teach others about the evil of hate," he told the news agency AP. "This should never happen again, to anybody." Tel Aviv Chief Rabbi Israel Meir Lau (pictured below with Schröder), himself a Holocaust survivor, said he was happy that such a large number of Muslim leaders were seeking to deepen their understanding of the Shoah.

The visit included a tour of the site and prayers in Arabic, Yiddish, English and French. The trip was organized by UNESCO, the educational and cultural arm of the United Nations, as well as Paris City Hall and a new anti-racism group called the Aladdin Project. Anne-Marie Revcolevschi, head of the Aladdin Project, said it was important to have the Muslim representatives on hand. "The reason is clear," she said. "Because it's primarily from some of these countries where the speeches and documents that trade in Holocaust denial, hatred and anti-Semitism come from." She noted the participation of Karim Lahidji, the head of the Iranian League of Human Rights and a former top lawyer in Tehran, saying: "No one will miss out on how his presence is important."

“We must teach our young people in mosques, churches and synagogues about what happened here,” Bosnia’s Grand Mufti Mustafa Ceric (pictured on the right), told the group, adding: “This awful place should stand as a reminder to all people that intolerance and lack of understanding between people can result in... such places as Auschwitz.” The Paris-based Aladdin Project was created two years ago to raise awareness about the Holocaust and to fight racism, Islamophobia and intolerance. Its website offers primers about Judaism for non-Jews and about Islam for non-Muslims, and highlights the historic ties between their communities. Envoys from Egypt, Tunisia, Iran and Algeria had to cancel for various reasons, including the current political upheaval in the Middle East. The visit came after a week after the commemoration of the 66th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, Nazi Germany's most notorious death camp built in occupied Poland where 1.1 million Jews, Gypsies and others were murdered.

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