"The Righteous Muslim Exhibition, launched at the Board of Deputies of British Jews in Bloomsbury, will feature photographs of 70 Muslims who hid Jews from the Nazis, alongside their stories and detailing their acts of heroism.
"These 70 Muslims were recently added to Yad Vashem's list of "righteous among the nations" detailing those who risked their lives to protect Jews during Nazi Germany’s reign of terror."
But Fiyaz Mughal of Faith Matters, one of the prime movers behind the project being shown at the Board of Deputies, spoke these rather worrying, if not downright offensive, words:
"One of the main drivers of the project is that there are some small sections in Jewish communities who are trying to rewrite history and say that Muslims overwhelmingly helped the Nazis."
'Small sections in Jewish communities' could mean us: Point of No Return. In a post crossposted on Harry's Place, we accused Fiyaz Mughal of omitting vital context when he launched his booklet in 2010: 'Righteous Muslims'.
There were just 200 Jews in Albania at the outbreak of World War 2. Their numbers swelled to 2, 000 after the war, because Austrian and German Jews were given safe haven in Albania.
This is no mean achievement, when almost all countries in Europe were slamming their gates shut to fleeing Jews.
In accordance with their code of honour, BESA, Albanians must be honoured for protecting Jews.*
But at the same time, it's only fair to point out that Muslims in Iraq murdered almost 200 Jews in a pro-Nazi pogrom in Iraq in 1941. Muslim SS divisions helped murder tens of thousands of Bosnian and Serbian Jews.
Otherwise, the Righteous Muslims exhibit becomes a disingenuous attempt to sanitise a Muslim record of sympathy, if not active collaboration with the Nazis. I would argue that it is certain sections of the Muslim Community who are trying to re-write history.
I am reproducing two letters published in the Jewish Chronicle in July 2010. These sum up the main arguments:
"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.
Harif – Jews from the Middle East and N. Africa
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.
Controversy over Righteous Muslims rumbles on
*It has been pointed out that BESA had nothing to do with Islam - Albanians both Muslim and Christian observed this code of honour.