Jewish, Muslim leaders praise Muslim World League interfaith visit to Auschwitz
On the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, Jewish and Muslim leaders praised a senior Muslim delegation’s visit to the former Nazi German death camp in Poland.
Dr. Mohammad al-Issa, Secretary General of the Muslim World League, led an interfaith delegation to Auschwitz last week, a trip commended by Ilja Sichrovsky, founder and co-director of the international organization The Muslim Jewish Conference.
“Is it a good idea to bring the leader of the Muslim World League to Auschwitz? Martin Luther King Jr. once said, ‘The time is always right to do what is right.’ I agree. We must remember. Equally we must not stand by today in the face of racism, discrimination, or anti-semitism. History taught us, if this is to end in light, we have to fight darkness together, wherever that may be,” said Sichrovsky in an interview with Al Arabiya English.
The visit was a “huge step in the right direction,” according to Imam Abdullah Antepli, a professor of interfaith relations at Duke Divinity School.
“It was an incredibly, courageous, brave, praiseworthy initiative by the secretary general right before the anniversary of Holocaust Remembrance Day,” said Antepli in an interview with Al Arabiya English.
Antepli, who visited Auschwitz with seven other Muslim American leaders in 2010, said the experience was like a “slap in the face.”
“I didn’t realize until I visited Auschwitz what this meant for the Jewish community to lose one third of its population in six years. I thought, what would this look like – God forbid – if this happened to Muslims?” said Antepli, adding that the Holocaust is the “darkest period in human history.”
“I don’t think a lot of non-Jews process what this would look like if it happened to their own communities,” said Antepli.
Al-Issa, who became the most senior Islamic leader in history to visit Auschwitz, said “Islamic values” prompted him to make the trip and that he “would oppose anyone who denies” the Holocaust.
“This high-level delegation of Muslim scholars has come to say that our religion is one of peace, one of mercy, and one which fights evil,” al-Issa, who served as Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Justice until 2015, said during the visit.
The Muslim delegation also visited the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews, the first and only museum dedicated to restoring the memory of the civilization created by Polish Jews.
The visit came just days before Holocaust Rememebrance Day, which also marked 75 years since the Nazi German death camp at Auschwitz was liberated.
More than 1.1 million men, women, and children lost their lives at Auschwitz, built by the Nazis in occupied Poland as the largest of their concentration camps and extermination centers.
Over six million Jewish people were killed in the Holocaust.