Muslim leader urges tolerance on Auschwitz visit

Imam Abduljalil Sajid

Imam Abduljalil Sajid

A senior British Muslim leader has called on Muslims to support Jews in the fight against prejudice while on a multifaith visit to Auschwitz.

More than 150 Christian, Muslim and Jewish dignitaries from around the world, including Jordan, Turkey and Iraq went on the visit, organised to follow last week’s international Holocaust Memorial Day. Prayers were read in both Arabic and English.

Imam Abduljalil Sajid, vice-chair of the Muslim Council of Britain, said during the trip: “Muslims have to stand up with Jewish friends because in Europe, antisemitism is rising - and where there is antisemitism, Islamophobia is not far away."

He said he had wanted to see the concentration camp where 1.1 million people were murdered during the Holocaust so that he could “teach others about the evil of hate”.

He added: "This should never happen again, to anybody."

The visit was partly organised by the Aladdin Project, an anti-racism group set up in Paris in 2009, and dedicated to Holocaust education and challenging racism and Islamophobia.

Anne-Marie Revcolevschi, the organisation’s head, stressed how crucial the presence of Muslim representative on the visit was. She drew particular attention to Iranian lawyer Karim Lahidji, the head of his country’s League of Human Rights.

She said: “We chose to give priority to representatives of the Arab and Muslim world , and the reason for this is clear.

“It’s primarily from some of these countries where the speeches and documents that trade in Holocaust denial, hatred and antisemitism come."

Elan Steinberg, vice president of the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants, praised the “unprecedented” visit as the appropriate response to the Holocaust-denial of influential figures such as Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

He said: "This extraordinary visit [is] a major blow against the scourge of Holocaust denial and an act of encouragement to the strengthening of interfaith relations.

"This delegation will spread the message of mutual tolerance and understanding as the antidote to hate and disrespect. It is a welcome benefit to both Muslim and Jew."

Last updated: 2:20pm, February 2 2011