Imams To Auschwitz 2010
“It occurred to me that the important thing was for them to go there and simply say, ‘this is what the truth is.’ Not a political statement, not a propaganda statement, not even necessarily a religious statement. It had to be a statement in a sense that bore witness to what was the truth” – Rabbi Jack Bemporad
“Why should we bring Imams who already know the truth? We needed to show Auschwitz to doubters and deniers.” – Professor Marshall Breger
“You see the ashes of people. You see the pictures. You walk the trail; you see the gas chambers. It is beyond imagination that somebody would do something like that.” – Imam Mohamed Magid, President of the Islamic Society of North America
On August 7 – 11, 2010, eight of the most influential Imams and Muslim leaders in the U.S. made an historic trip to concentration camps in Germany and Poland. The trip was led by Rabbi Jack Bemporad of the Center for Interreligious Understanding (NJ); organized by Prof. Marshall Breger, Catholic University of America and Suhail Khan of the Institute for Global Engagement; and funded by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation (Germany). Joining the delegation were two State Department Ambassadors: Hanna Rosenthal, Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism and Rashid Hussein, Ambassador to the Organization of the Islamic Conference.
This unprecedented mission of learning and compassion began in Germany where, upon arrival, the delegation toured the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site. Among the lasting images were Imams kneeling in prayer beneath the striking bronze sculpture of gnarled human forms caught for eternity in barbed wire. The delegation then traveled onto Poland and walked together through the iconic gate, for a day-long visit to the infamous Auschwitz-Birkenau camps.
The Muslim leaders were visibly shaken by what they saw. They were moved when 90-year-old Max Mannheimer spoke of his time at Auschwitz, and showed them for the first time the tattoo that Jews have almost taken for granted. The reactions were heartfelt; questions not shaded not by skepticism, but by a need to know and an attempt to comprehend the incomprehensible horror.
As important as ever, the Holocaust remains as a stark reminder of the dangers of prejudice and religious intolerance – for all. This trip was the beginning of a journey. Together, Jewish and Muslim leaders planted an unprecedented seed of peace vs prejudice in the most unlikely of places. The visit to these camps not only unequivocally testified to the fruits of hate, it affirmed historical and contemporary truths so that the lessons of the Holocaust will be used by all as a tool against, rather than to grow, prejudice.
The Imams began to speak out against anti-semitism. As a result of their profound experience, with a united voice these influential Muslim leaders issued a remarkable and unprecedented public statement. The pilgrimage itself, the Imam’s statement, and its subsequent impact continue to garner global media attention.
Congressional Briefing on Confronting Anti-Semitism and Holocaust Denial:
International Press Coverage:
The pilgrimage’s participants:
Rabbi Jack Bemporad, Director, Center For Interreligious Understanding
Professor Marshall Breger, The Catholic University of America, Columbus School of Law; former Special Assistant to President Ronald Reagan/Liaison to the Jewish Community
Ambassador Rashad Hussein, US State Department, Ambassador to the Organization of the Islamic Conference
Suhail A. Khan, Senior Fellow for Christian Muslim Understanding at the Institute for Global Engagement (IGE); former senior official in the Bush Administration
Ambassador Hannah Rosenthal, US State Deparment, Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism
Dr. Norbert and Gabrielle Wagner, Konrad Adenauer Foundation
Imam Muhamed Magid, All-Dulles-Area Muslim Society, Dulles, VA and Vice President of the Islamic Society of North America. A native of Sudan and “Washingtonian of 2009″ by Washingtonian Magazine, Maged has worked tirelessly with Jewish and Christian leadership to bring the communities together. Indicative of the close relationship Maged has fostered with the local Jewish community, for example, a local Virginia synagogue hosts a satellite Friday prayer for Muslims.
Imam Abdullah T. Antepli, Muslim Chaplain, Duke University, is a native of Turkey and works daily with young Muslims.Dr. Sayyid M. Syeed, National Director of the Islamic Society of North America’s Office of Interfaith & Community Services, Washington, D.C.
Imam Muzammil Siddiqi, Islamic Society of Orange County, CA and Chairman of the Fiqh Council of North America. The “dean” of the delegation, Siddiqi attended seminaries in his native India, Saudia Arabia, the UK, and Harvard Divinity School.
Imam Suhaib Webb, Muslim Community Association, Santa Clara, CA. Webb is the grandson of an Oklahoma pastor, has a significant following of American Muslims, especially youth, and recently completed seven years of Islamic study at Al-Azhar University, the world’s oldest university.
Ms. Laila Muhammad, daughter of the late Imam W.D. Muhammad of Chicago, IL, and is especially well-respected in the African American Muslim community.
Shaikh Yasir Qadhi, Dean of Academics for the Al Maghrib Institute, New Haven, CT, the youngest (35) member of the delegation, who trains thousands in the U.S. and around the world on Islamic studies.
Imam Syed Naqvi, Director of the Islamic Information Center in Washington, D.C. is a major Imam in the Shi’ite tradition.