Muslim leader addresses Reform biennial

The president of the Islamic Society of North America promised to combat Holocaust denial in the Muslim world.

Dr. Ingrid Mattson delivered her promise Sunday at the closing plenary of the Union for Reform Judaism biennial in San Diego.

Mattson compared hateful images of Muslims in the media with the dehumanization of Jews by the Nazi propaganda machine that paved the way for the Holocaust.

“This is one of the greatest tragedies of modern history and ISNA will witness to this truth, anytime and to anyone in the Muslim world who denies it,” Mattson said to a standing ovation.

Mattson’s appearance at the biennial comes four months after URJ President Rabbi Eric Yoffie became the first major Jewish leader to address the Islamic Society at its annual convention. Mattson endorsed Yoffie’s call, issued in his sermon to the biennial the day before, to launch a dialogue project between the two organizations.

Mattson said American Muslims have much to learn from the Jewish experience, while Jews have a natural partner in Muslims anxious to uphold religious liberty and the separation of church and state. She also said American Jews need to understand Muslim concern for the Palestinians and not assume it stems from anti-Jewish sentiment.

“If religion is about anything,” Mattson said, “it should be about the ability to extend empathy beyond our own family or tribe or religious community to humanity at large.”

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