In March 2012 I had the opportunity to be part of a mission of Muslim and Jewish leaders, Imams, and Rabbis from Latin America and the Caribbean, to meetings in Washington D.C, USA.
The program was an initiative of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, which has been organizing Muslim–Jewish dialogue events in the United States and in Europe in which synagogues twin with mosques, and leaders of the two faith communities work together on issues relating to anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and Middle East peace.
“It is a natural extension of our program,” said Rabbi Marc Schneier, the group’s president.
The delegation to Washington included Jewish and Muslim leaders from Brazil, Argentina, Peru, Ecuador, Uruguay, Barbados and St. Croix. Its members met with representatives of the White House office of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships and with the State Department’s special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism. Co-hosting the group, alongside the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, was the Islamic Society of North America, a national Muslim organization that has been leading the way in interfaith dialogue between Jews and Muslims.
In a joint statement issued following the visit, the group pledged to work together against any expression of hatred to either community. ”Bigotry against any Jew or any Muslim is an attack on all Muslims and all Jews,” the statement reads.
One of the highlights of that visit was our tour of the US Holocaust Museum. It was at that Museum that I came, for the first time, face to face with the horrors of the Holocaust. As I toured the eerie passageways of that Museum the imagery and artifacts from that grim time in the worlds’ history, presented a vivid reminder of the evil that humankind can inflict on fellow human beings.
The US Holocaust Museum, as I am sure other similar museums, are set up as reminders, not only to future generations of what transpired in the past, but what we should all do to ensure it never happens again.
At a roundtable discussion at the Museum following our tour I made the point that as a Muslim it was a unique opportunity for me to be there. I noted that I was in Washington two years prior with my family on holiday and while we made it a point to visit all the national sites we never even thought of visiting the Holocaust Museum. It was as though it was not important to us. My tour has changed that point of view and I would recommend anyone who has the chance to visit the Holocaust Museum.
The Museum continues its research into the Holocaust but it also documents and showcases similar atrocities and events that has taken place since World War 2. I also learnt of Muslims who helped Jews escaped the horrors of the Holocaust.
Holocaust Memorial Day I am sure is intended to remind humankind of the tragic and horrendous events of that period of time for the Jewish people in Europe. But it can also be used to remind us of the continued suffering occurring today in many parts of the world. Not only remind us, but motivate us to struggle to remove injustice in this world as best as we can.
This article is written by Suleiman Bulbulia.