Muslim is 'changed forever' by her visit to Auschwitz

By Bernard Josephs, January 29, 2009

A Muslim student received an ovation from MPs and Holocaust educators after delivering an impassioned plea for a united front against racial prejudice and hatred.

Addressing an HMD event at the House of Commons, Ifraah Samatar said that 60 years after the Holocaust, “we still live in a society where hatred and discrimination exist.

“We are all neighbours on this planet, be we Jewish, Muslim, Christian or whatever. We have to realise that when people look back 60 years they will ask themselves: ‘How could this have happened?’ Yet racism and genocide still happen today.”

The law student was close to tears as she recalled a visit to Auschwitz under the auspices of the Holocaust Educational Trust, which also hosted the Westminster meeting.

“Something in me was changed forever,” Ms Satamar told an audience including Cabinet members Ed Balls and Ed Miliband and former Tory leader Michael Howard.

She could not believe she was “walking in the footsteps” of people who had been forced to march to their deaths. School lessons about the Holocaust were no comparison with the reality of visiting a death camp site. What had really shocked her was a meeting with a survivor, Joseph Perl, who had told her he had forgiven his persecutors.

Another speaker was Matthew Collins, director of the Searchlight Educational Trust, who warned that racism was on the rise.

The British National Party was close to winning seats on the European Parliament, which goes to the polls in June. Yet one BNP official, he said, had referred to the teaching of the Shoah in schools as “Holocaust porn”. When the last Euro election coincided with local council polls, the BNP received almost a million votes. “This does not mean there are a million fascists and race-haters in Britain. It means people are looking for simple answers to complicated questions.”

Last updated: 10:44am, January 29 2009