Saturday, July 17, 2010

Putting Muslim Holocaust heroes in context

The Jewish Chronicle follows Fiyaz Mughal's comment piece, launching the interfaith group Faith Matters' booklet (highlighting the role of Muslim heroes who saved Jews), with a couple of letters in its 16 July issue. While applauding Mughal's initiative, both seek a wider context:

Fiyaz Mughal’s Faith Matters organisation is to be commended for its initiative (JC, July 9) to promote the stories of individual Muslims who saved Jews during the Holocaust : it shows not only that the Holocaust reached deep into Arab and Muslim lands, but can help counteract Holocaust denial.

However, the wartime bravery of Righteous Muslims can only be properly appreciated in the context of massive Arab and Muslim support for the Germans. Indeed, readers of the Faith Matters booklet will wonder why Muslims needed to be righteous in the first place, had their fellow-Muslims not collaborated in the persecution of Jews.

In Nazi-occupied Tunisia, for instance, for every Khaled Abdulwahhab, who sheltered Jews in his farmhouse there was a Hassen Ferjani, who sent Gilbert Scemla and his two sons to their deaths.

Antisemitism was not simply a matter of personal prejudice, but of ideology. The Palestinian leader, the Mufti of Jerusalem, the only non-German leader to have visited a concentration camp, played a key role in inspiring the Nazis’ genocidal project, raised an SS Muslim division in Bosnia; and sent 20,000 European Jews to death camps through his personal intervention.

He also incited a pro-Nazi government to plan the 1941 Farhud, the Iraqi Jews’ Kristallnacht, in which 180 Jews were murdered.

The Arab world has never exorcised its Nazi demons, which fuel the rejection of Israel and caused the ethnic cleansing of a million Jews from communities predating Islam by over a millenium.

The Mufti was never tried as a war criminal, Nazi-style antisemitic propaganda and imagery are rife today, and both Islamic fundamentalism and Arab nationalism owe a great deal to Nazi influence.

If it is to work, interfaith dialogue between Muslims and Jews needs not just to dwell on positive stories of compassion and cooperation, but address these painful and uncomfortable issues.

Lyn Julius
Harif – Jews from the Middle East and N. Africa


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As a Holocaust survivor born in Yugoslavia, I can only be thankful for the Muslim actions Fiyaz Mughal describes, but let us not forget that most Albanian Christians were actively saving Jewish lives, too.

Unfortunately we should also remember the 20,000 Muslim members of the Hanjar SS, on policing duty in Hungary and the two SS divisions recruited from Yugoslavia's Muslim populations, the Bosnian 13th Waffen Hanjar and the Albanian Skanderberg 21st Waffen SS Division. Nevertheless, Fiyaz' Mughal's effort to bring Britian's Muslim and Jewish communities closer is to be applauded.

Leslie Rubner

Controversy over Righteous Muslims rumbles on

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