US Imams and Muslim leaders Make Historic Trip to Auschwitz

Imams Visit to Auschwitz

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:  Hannah Rosenthal, Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism and Rashid Hussein, Ambassador to the Organization of the Islamic Conference. CLICK HERE to read “Confronting Holocaust Denial,” Hannah Rosenthal’s account of the trip .

Imams Kneeling in Prayer at Dachau

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 has to be, beneath a striking bronze sculpture of gnarled human forms caught for eternity in barbed wire, Imams kneeling in prayer.  The delegation then traveled onto Poland and walked together through the iconic gate, for a day-long visit to the infamous Auschwitz-Birkenau camps.

Imams and Hannah Rosenthal at Auschwitz

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, we as Jews, have come to almost take for granted. The reactions were heartfelt and 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 are speaking up against anti-semetism. As a result of their profound experience, with a united voice these influential Muslim leaders have issued a remarkable and unprecedented public statement.

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/Liason 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); served as a 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 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 Muhamad Maged, All-Dulles-Area Muslim Society, Dulles, Virginia 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.

Dr. Sayyid M. Syeed, National Director of the Islamic Society of North America’s Office of Interfaith & Community Services, Washington, D.C.

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.

Imam Abdullah T. Antepli, Muslim Chaplain, Duke University, is a native of Turkey and works daily with young Muslims.

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