Monday, April 22, 2013

'Righteous Albanian Muslims' exhibit lacks context

A new London exhibition will showcase the role Muslims played in saving Jews during the Holocaust, the BBC reported this week. 

"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.

Lyn Julius
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.

Leslie Rubner

Jpost report

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. 


Anonymous said...

Quran commands the killing of Christians and Jews. Qur’an 9:29-Fight against Christi
ans and Jews ”until they pay the tribute readily, being brought low.”

Eliyahu m'Tsiyon said...

this post at link has a link to a video documenting Arab-Nazi collaboration. The chief palestinian Arab leader, Haj Amin el-Husseini, meets hitler in Berlin.

amie said...

It would be just about possible to accept if Fiyaz' position was that the aim of this exhibition is to highlight the actions of the righteous Muslims,that it is not the remit of the exhibition to encompass the whole gamut of good and bad actions by Muslims, and he had left it at that. After all, if one is commemorating the bravery of the resistors of the Warsaw Ghetto, is it necessary to mention every time those who collaborated.
But this is not his aim: he says specifically what motivates him, and the exhibition:

"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 helped the Nazis."

It is bad enough that he traduces people like Lyn as falsifying history, without in any way challenging, let alone demonstrating, that any instance she and others have written on this issue is not authentically historically documented fact. But in the well worn strategy of having to placate his constituency, he creates a false equivalence, and goes on to compare:

"And on the other side, there is a small section of the Muslim community who do not want to talk about the Holocaust."

But wait: it is not merely an equivalence: the Muslims are not Holocaust deniers, they simply do not want to "talk about" the Holocaust. So Lyn and the other chroniclers of the Muslim Nazi alliance are worse than that- they are "rewriting" history. For someone who claims to espouse interfaith reconciliation, this is a very offensive and divisive thing to do.
There is a reason that the process of attempting to reconcile the perpetrators and victims in major historical wrongdoing in many countries was called Truth and Reconciliation. Reconciliation is not feasible without the Truth element, and this kind of false "rewriting" accusation confounds the truth.

bataween said...

Excellent comment, amie,

Anonymous said...

Remember, during World War I the Jews ran away from the Russians to the German side as the later were saving Jews. Then during World War II the Germans came in in slaughtered us like flies! The ALBANIAN Muslims in this article are to be applauded , they should be honored by Yad Veshem, in Israel, , however the extremist Muslims around the world seek to destroy Israel and the Jewish people and all infidels. I wish it were not so and pray for peace, shalom , for us all. RABBI DR. BERNHARD ROSENBERG


Alonzo said...

This is cool!