MideastWeb Middle East Web Log
The Islamic Republic of Iran under President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad recently hosted a conference of historical revisionists dubbed as "Review of the Holocaust: Global Vision."
It was neither global nor visionary. That it coincided with the commemoration of the international Human Rights Day betrayed the sarcastic intent of its organizers.
The conference was yet another attempt by Ahmadinejad to portray himself as a strong challenger to the State of Israel, calling for its destruction. He has characterized the Holocaust as a "myth." He is quoted as saying that, "Israel must be wiped off the map...Anyone who signs a treaty which recognizes the entity of Israel means he has signed the surrender of the Muslim world."(October 2005) Again, in December 2005, he said, "They have fabricated a legend under the name 'Massacre of the Jews,' and they hold it higher than God himself, religion itself and the prophets themselves."
Earlier, Iran's largest daily, Hamshahri, sponsored a widely publicized cartoon contest making a mockery of the Holocaust. This was a rebuttal allegedly to the right-wing Danish newspaper, Jyllands-Posten, caricaturing the Prophet Muhammad while reminiscent of the anti-Semitism once prevalent in Europe.
What went largely unnoticed was the courtly reaction to the cartoons by a paraplegic painter, Hossein Nouri, who painted, amidst flag-burnings and noisy protests, a portrait of the Virgin Mary in front of the Danish Embassy in Tehran; marking the respect Islam accords to the mother of Prophet Jesus.
Tehran ostensibly offered "scientists" from around the world an opportunity to discuss the Holocaust without taboos. This, however, stood in sharp contrast to the increased censorship of the Internet and denial of access to the websites critical of the Iranian government.
Another evidence of duplicity towards free expression came to light when a Palestinian lawyer, and one of the invited speakers, Khaled Kasab Mahameed, was refused entry visa by Iran. Mahameed runs the Arab world's first Institute for Holocaust Research and Education, in Nazareth. He was prevented from telling the audience that "It's not enough to curse these Holocaust deniers as foolish. We have to convince them the Holocaust did happen." While hopeful of meeting with the Iranian President, he wanted to convince him that denial or questioning of "such huge, monstrous horror" harmed the Palestinian cause.
The event in Tehran, nevertheless, was attended by some 67 participants from 30 countries including the former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke and other Holocaust deniers who have undergone prosecution in Germany, France, and Austria for their reluctance to believe that six million Jews were slaughtered under the Nazi regime before and during the Second World War.
Two Rabbis, and four representatives of the group Jews United Against Zionism, who reject the establishment of Israel on Jewish religious grounds, did make an appearance declaring their opposition to those who denied that Jews were subjected to Nazi persecution, forced labor camps, Gestapo prisons, and ultimately the Shoah. Ironically, the taunting statement went unheeded in Tehran.
It is against this backdrop that the initiative by a small group of Washington-area Muslims to visit the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum came as a positive contribution to human struggle against hate. They called "for remembrance of the victims of the horrific Holocaust and commemoration of the struggles endured by the brave survivors."
The Museum's mission against hate will soon receive a fresh boost as it gains access to millions of documents archived at the International Tracing Service, a division of the International Committee of the Red Cross, in the German town of Bad Arolsen.
While we admire Steven Spielberg's 1993 movie, Shindler's List, on Oskar Schindler saving the lives of the Polish Jews, new stories of human courage and dignity were narrated when Johanna Neumann, a Holocaust survivor, recounted to the Muslim visitors to the Museum how she and her parents were saved by Albanian Muslims: "They saved us and these were good human beings, and as I said before, the majority of them were Muslims, and we have nothing but the highest respect for these people." The names of these Muslims from Albania, Njazi and Liza Pilku, are inscribed at the Holocaust museum and Yad Vashem among the "Righteous Among the Nations."
Looking beyond Tehran, one finds both Palestinians and Jewish voices opposing both anti-Semitism and anti-Palestinian actions. For instance, Israel Shahak, a Holocaust survivor, Amira Hass, the daughter of two Holocaust survivors, Akiva Eldar, Yossi Sarid, Amira Hass and Rabbi Michael Lerner are but some of the Jewish intellectuals and leaders who favor the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination.
Similarly, when in 2001 there was an attempt to hold a Holocaust denial conference in Beirut, it was strongly opposed by several leading Arab intellectuals, including Edward Said, Adonis, and the Palestinian Mahmoud Darwish. Consequently, the event was cancelled.
More insights into reciprocal human goodness were offered at home after a controversy surrounding the conservative radio host Dennis Prager. Prager was appointed to the Council of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in September 2006. Following the election of Keith Ellison to become the first Muslim in the U.S. Congress, Prager demanded in his November 28 column that he "should not be allowed" to "take his oath of office ... on the bible of Islam, the Koran." He compared Ellison's choice of the Quran to "Hitler's Mein Kampf, the Nazis' bible, for his oath." He wrote that allowing congressional oaths on a Quran "undermines American civilization." "If you are incapable of taking an oath on (the Bible), don't serve in Congress."
The victory of moral reciprocity over Tehran's attempt to belittle human suffering is sterling. From Albanian Muslims protecting Jews during the Holocaust, Jews saving Muslims from genocide in Bosnia, Arab intellectuals fighting Holocaust denial, to the Jewish mayor of New York defending the first Muslim member of the U.S. Congress, it is a triumph for human dignity and a defeat of racism, hate, and bigotry.
The Holocaust-denying regime in Tehran should learn that both "Muslim anti-Semitism" and "Jewish Islamophobia" are oxymorons. No purpose is served by minimizing or denying hate-prompted human misery, be it Jewish or Arab.
Compared to the religiously inspired systematic, persistent, and state-sponsored persecution of Jews through history there is little or no equivalent in the Muslim world. On the contrary, Jewish and Muslim history is an enviable narrative on tolerance and harmony that blossomed into the legendary Convivencia in medieval Muslim Spain. Let the spirit of reciprocity in upholding human dignity rekindle the flame of Convivencia.
Dr. Munawar A. Anees
Dr. Munawar Anees is a Pakistani-American writer and social critic, with an enduring interest in religion and science discourse, bioethics, and Islamic philosophy. He is the founder of the world's premiere journal on Islam and the Muslim world: Periodica Islamica. He lives in Los Angeles.
Original text copyright by the author and MidEastWeb for Coexistence, RA. Posted at MidEastWeb Middle East Web Log at http://www.mideastweb.org/log/archives/00000549.htm where your intelligent and constructive comments are welcome. Distributed by MEW Newslist. Subscribe by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please forward by email with this notice and link to and cite this article. Other uses by permission.
Replies: 7 comments
Referring to Dr. Munawar A. Anees last paragraph concerning tolerance and harmony that blossomed between Islam and Judaism , exactly where in the current Islamic world does this exist today , Pakistan , Indonesia , Egypt , Syria , Saudi Arabia ,Iraq , Iran , etc , etc . etc !
Please forgive me if I can not recall any Muslim country where Jews are "free" to practice Judaism the way Muslims practice Islam in Israel or the United States or Canada or England . Wait a minute , notice a common denominator........ ahhhhh Christianity .
Posted by Davyd M @ 01/02/2007 04:43 PM CST
The Jewish-Muslim harmony, a hallmark of our past, has eroded. We must do all we can to prevent it from becoming a "common denominator" along with the Christiandom. That is why we must rekindle the spirit of Convivencia.
Posted by Dr Munawar Anees @ 01/02/2007 08:21 PM CST
I landed upon your website today looking for Theodore Herzl's book, 'The Jewish Nation'. I sent the link for the book from your site to my email group. It was thereafter that I started to peruse your website and I came upon a heading:
It was not hard for me to realize which direction your article was headed just from the title. I have to agree with you that Iran had no business holding a conference on the issue of the Holocaust. Germany should once and for all admit or deny the claimed number of Jews that were killed during that unfortunate time. It is also ironic that it was Germany more than any other nation that objected to the conference. Some things just don't make sense or they seem to be inverted. At any rate, you also write outrageous statements in your article in support of the stolen Arab land that goes by the deceptive biblical word of 'Israel'. No one, I repeat, no one, had the authority to give Arab land away to Europeans Jews (or anybody else) but only the Arabs. Might does not make right. Every single European Jew who now lives in Palestine lives by sheer force, akin to the way a rapist rapes. Germany should have been the only country to partition its land. Funny, isn't it that they refer to the theft of Arab land as, a "partition". India and Pakistan were partitioned; the land was divided between two people who had always lived there. In the case of Palestine, it was not a partition, but an invasion. European Jews stampeded towards Palestine while time was of the essence. Palestine was like a ball, passed on to European Jews as the new colonizers from the former colonizers, the British. The European Jews are as alien to the Arab region as an Eskimo or a Zulu. They use a religion they converted to and call themselves 'Jews' and even 'Israelites'. Palestine was colonized by European Jewry and not petitioned. The Zionist ideology is no different from the Nazi ideology. If you have taken the time to study them and put them side-by-side, Nazism and Zionism have astounding similarities.
Posted by sophie @ 01/06/2007 11:00 PM CST
I was deeply disappointed to read Sophieâ€™s reply to Dr. Aneesâ€™ fine post, although I cannot say I was surprised. The response supplies the usual links to the usual anti-Semitic web sites making the usual anti-Semitic claims. But that isnâ€™t what I found so troubling. What bothered me is that after almost 60 years, some people still question Israelâ€™s basic right to exist. My first instinct was to ignore the response, since itâ€™s clear thereâ€™s nothing I can write that will spark reflection on the part of the poster, and that my response might lend some type of credibility to her comments.
Still, her hate of Israel and Jews grated on me, and I believe her view of Israel as an illegitimate state is one of the reasons peace between the Arabs and Israelis has remained so illusive. I donâ€™t mean to imply that Sophie is personally responsible for the failure of the peace process, but that she expresses an attitude common among Arabs (and others) that Jews are colonial occupiers who have no history and no rights in the region, and that this belief can partially explain why the peace process has failed. (Iâ€™m not foolish enough to argue it is the only reason or that there arenâ€™t Jewish attitudes also hindering peace efforts.)
I once thought peace didnâ€™t require Arabs and Jews to like each other; just that we stop killing each other. If the Palestinians sat down to negotiate with the Israelis not because they had come to see Jews as legitimate residents of the region but because they finally realized they wouldnâ€™t achieve their goals by force of arms, that was good enough. But now I think that as long as a significant portion of Arabs (maybe a majority maybe a large minority, I donâ€™t know) see Jews as colonizing outsiders, peace is unlikely. After all, the Belgiums left the Congo, the French left North Africa and Viet Nam, the sun finally set on the British Empire, and the Jews will leave Israel if just a few more are killed.
But of course the Jews havenâ€™t left Israel. The rockets fired by Hezbollah and the suicide bombers sent by Hamas and Islamic Jihad and Fatah change nothing, can change nothing, only kill and main and bring more killing and maiming. While I believe the Palestinians have the right to their own country, their rockets and bombers are deeply immoral since they will not, cannot bring about the desired results. Arabs are as indigenous to the land between the Jordan and the Mediterranean as I am to North America. I was born here, as were my parents and grandparents, but like the Arabs of Palestine, I am the beneficiary of violence and conquest, only the Arabs had the good fortune of conquering Israel so long ago that memory has faded.
Time has allowed them to forget that someone else once lived on land they claim as their own; time has allowed them to appropriate stories they now call their own. The Palestinians may claim they descend from the Canaanites or the Moabites or the Philistines, and maybe they do, but they cannot tell a Canaanite creation story or a Philistine hero story. Those stories are as dead as dusty clay tablets stored in museum vaults. What the Arabs have are stories of Abraham and Isaac and Ishmael and Moses and David. What the Arabs have are Jewish stories.
The Palestinians can deny a Jewish presence in their land, but without the Torah and the Tanak, their ancient stories would vanish. Many people who claim Israel has no right to exist will also claim that a bunch of ancient myths doesnâ€™t give Jews a right to a state of our own. When I hear that argument, I wonder what gives the Palestinians the right to the land. Is it simple occupation. To claim possession by simple occupation is to validate Jewish existence in Israel, since itâ€™s primarily Jews living there now, and most of the Jews in Israel were born on that land.
The villages and fields the Palestinians once called home are mostly gone, and while a few former residents hang on in Lebanon and Jordan and Syria and the rest of the Arab world, the years are against them. Nineteen Forty-eight was a long time ago. One day soon, nobody with a personal knowledge of Palestine will exist. Already, most of the people who hold keys to long-vanished houses and tell stories of long-vanished villages know of these things only second or third hand or fourth hand. Already, their stories sound more like ancient myth than something we would call objective history, and in time myth will be all the Palestinians will have.
If the Palestinians and other Arabs can finally what is true about the Jewish narrative, I think it will go along way to brining peace to a region so desperately in need of peace. Both sides need to understand the validity of the others claims. Both sides need to compromise, but also understanding that in compromising, the other side is giving up something they are entitled to in exchange for peace. Those who continually deny Israelâ€™s right to exist cannot do this, and every sentence, every word will only serve to deepen and prolong the conflict.
Posted by mike @ 01/08/2007 11:16 AM CST
Firstly this is a brave artical coming from a Muslim writer as there is the constant thrat of being called a traitor to your beliefs and/or people.
Secondly Sophie, germany has admitted guilt to the Holocaust and has paid reperations.
Furthermore the vast majority of European Jews who settled in what was then the British Mandate of Palestine came long before Hitler's rise to power in Germany. In fact during and after the Second World War only about 40 000 European Jews came.
You also seem to have no idead of Zionist ideolgy and to compare it to Nazism reveals your ignorance. The basic aim of Zionism was to create a homeland for the Jewish people. This includes the incredibly religious and the incredibly secular as being Jewish is not merely a religion. I have no doubt that you yourself would apply this to Islam.
Nazi ideology is based on the concept that certain types of humans, Aryans, are genetically superior to others and as such have a right to rule over them. This led to it's logical conclusion that certain types of people are unfit to live and should be wiped out.
I would alos like to point out that you have not stated a single fact in your argument merely emotional displays such as 'The Zionist ideology is no different from the Nazi ideology. If you have taken the time to study them and put them side-by-side, Nazism and Zionism have astounding similarities.'
I hiope that you will broaden your views and read material other than those prescribed by those that you support.
Posted by Ariel @ 01/09/2007 09:07 AM CST
Sophie, though I agree with your statement in regards to might does not make right, it was Britania that gave land to the European Jews. Palestinian land had become property of Great Britan after the fall of the Otoman empire post WWI. Life unfortunately is not fair. The facts remain the same Israel is there now, Palestinians do not have the "might" to destroy it. Iran may have that ability in the near future, but it would be very unwise to attempt as it would most likely trigger WWIII. It does no one any good to confirm or deny the Jewish holocaust. It only breeds hatred in the hearts of Jews and resentment in the hearts of those that have to listen to the belly-aching of the Jews who use it's memmory to gain leverage over others. It is not necessary to remember so we do not repeat the same mistake, this does not apply. Of course everyone knows genocide is wrong. In regards to this subject, it is best forgotten, for everyones sake. We have a similar problem in the US. Some African Americans tend to use the struggles of their ancestors as a scape goat for their short-comings and misfortunes. If the whole mess is forgotten by everyone, the excuses and hatred disolves. I am "Native American", I don't hate others, becuase they have done nothing to me, what is my people's past is in the past. Until both Christians, Israel and the Arab world can realize this, they are doomed to be frozen in time, murdering eachother again, and again. How Israel was established is the past, at some point people have to draw a line in the sand and never look back, you can do nothing for the past, you can only plan for the future.
Posted by OMFG @ 01/10/2007 06:58 PM CST
By the way it was Turkey that lost the land ,that was the home to both Jews and Palestinians , to Britan. You do not blame the Turks? Before them there was someone else, and before them.... will we go back to the time of amino acids and proteins and blame your amino acid for invading my protein? It is all very silly, people kill because they remain intellectual children, whole nations of children. Murdering eachother because they can't see beyond their nose. This is the world as it is now...if we stop making excuses and blaming, we may actually progress as species.
Posted by OMFG @ 01/10/2007 07:12 PM CST
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