Some young UK Muslims defy community's boycott of Holocaust Memorial Day

A network of young Muslim professionals will join with the Holocaust Educational Trust.

By JONNY PAUL
January 22, 2007 22:19
4 minute read.
Some young UK Muslims defy community's boycott of Holocaust Memorial Day

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Despite the boycott of Holocaust Memorial Day by England's main Muslim organization, some Islamic groups have decided to commemorate the day. In London on Saturday, City Circle, a network of young Muslim professionals, will join with the Holocaust Educational Trust to remember the victims of the Holocaust and other more recent genocides. On Tuesday, meanwhile, Muslim and Jewish young professionals will together hear the firsthand testimony of Holocaust survivor Trude Levi and Rwandan genocide survivor Jean Mazimpaka. Dr. Ger Duijzings, a specialist on East European Studies, will also mae comments, with a particular focus on the Kosovo crisis, while Prof. Brian Brivati, an author and academic expert on comparative genocide. Prior to the talk, attendees will be invited to sign the Holocaust Memorial Day Book of Commitment. The survivor's testimony will be followed by a question and answer session to enable attendees to understand from a personal perspective the nature of the Holocaust and to explore its lessons in more depth. The main Muslim organization, the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), maintains a boycott of Holocaust Memorial Day on the grounds that it fails to remember the plight of the "Palestinian genocide." However last month, MCB's Central Working Committee discussed whether or not to accept the invitation this year. In a statement, they said: "A vote was held and it was decided to undertake a wider consultation of British Muslims on this issue." MCB have not yet concluded the consultation and with Holocaust Memorial Day occurring this week, it seems that the boycott will remain. Ahead of the City circle event, Asim Siddiqui, chairman of the group, said that the Holocaust "represents an example of mass murder and genocide that should never be forgotten, particularly at a time when Europe is uneasy about, and even fearful of, its minorities, including its Muslims." "The Srebrenica massacre on our doorstep, only 11 years ago, and the Rwandan genocide of 1994, in which up to a million people were killed," he continued, "remind us that no one can afford to be complacent about any increase in racism and intolerance in Europe or anywhere else." The chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, Karen Pollock, said: "We are delighted that we could facilitate this event for City Circle and it demonstrates what so many members of the Muslim community have expressed to us - that there is a role for all communities to play in Holocaust Memorial Day." In addition to remembering those who were lost during the Holocaust, she added that the day "provides the opportunity to reflect on more recent genocides, such as Rwanda and Bosnia. To have survivors from these tragedies also supporting the event serves as a reminder to all of us that discrimination and prejudice continue today." "It is our duty to stand up to those groups and individuals who encourage division and hatred in our communities." MCB first called for a boycott in 2003. Iqbal Sacranie, then secretary-general of the MCB, said in a press statement: "We are fully with the Jewish community in their pain and anguish. None of us must ever forget how the Holocaust began. We must remember it began with hatred that dehumanized an entire people, that fostered state brutality, made second class citizens of honest, innocent people because of their religion and ethnic identity." Referring to those vilified and seen as a threat, he said they "could be subjected to group punishment; dispossession and impoverishment while the rest of the world stood idly by, washing its hands of despair and suffering that kept getting worse. We must do more than remember and reflect on the past, we must be able to see when the same abuses occur in our time." "The living memorial for the victims of the Nazi Holocaust is ensuring we make the cry 'Never Again' real for all people who suffer, everywhere," he said. "We honor the dead most sincerely by working to end suffering and bring peace with justice to those who live without hope today. 'Ethnic cleansing' is not a thing of the past; it is a present terror. Remembrance must, therefore, refocus our moral vision and rededicate our commitment to prevent current and future inhumanity, state brutality and crimes against humanity." He said that despite their persistent request, "regrettably the memorial ceremony in its present form excludes and ignores other ongoing genocide and human rights abuses around the world, notably in the Occupied Palestinian Territories." "Much as we wanted to be there," he said they were unable to join the memorial ceremony but he urged the Home Secretary to make the Memorial Day inclusive of the sufferings of all people. "Genocide is the most abhorrent and outrageous crime against humanity and we are not going to prevent it by selectively remembering only some of its victims." The remembrance ceremony to mark Holocaust Memorial Day will be held at London's City Hall at midday on Tuesday with the theme of "the dignity of difference." The ceremony, to be opened by Brian Coleman, chairman of the London Assembly and attended by London Mayor Ken Livingstone, will commemorate all those who were victims of the Holocaust and reflect upon those affected by more recent atrocities. Trude Levi, who survived Auschwitz-Birkenau and Hessisch-Lichtenau concentration camps and a forced death march, will give testimony. Helen Bamber, a founding members of Amnesty International, will speak about her experiences working with victims of torture and other human rights violations. London high school students will read a "statement of commitment" and will light a memorial candle. The event will also include readings by the mayor and contributions from Rabbi Barry Marcus and Dr. Tony Bayfield. The Jewish Free School Youth Choir and the renowned cellist Sagi Hartov will provide music.

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