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American Muslim leaders visit concentration camps

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Eight Muslim American leaders who visited concentration camps and met with Holocaust survivors signed a statement condemning Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism.

The trip earlier this month, intended to teach the participants about the Holocaust, featured visits to Dachau and Auschwitz.

“We stand united as Muslim American faith and community leaders and recognize that we have a shared responsibility to continue to work together with leaders of all faiths and their communities to fight the dehumanization of all peoples based on their religion, race or ethnicity,” the statement read. “With the disturbing rise of anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and other forms of hatred, rhetoric and bigotry, now more than ever, people of faith must stand together for truth.”

Marshall Breger, an Orthodox Jew who served in the Reagan and first Bush administrations, and Rabbi Jack Bemporad, a Reform clergyman, launched the trip to educate those who may not have had the opportunity to learn the history of the Holocaust. Breger said this would help combat Holocaust denial among Muslims.

The leaders on the trip were imams Muzammil Siddiqi of Orange County, Calif.; Muhamad Maged of Virginia; Suhaib Webb of Santa Clara, Calif.; Abdullah Antepli of Duke University in North Carolina; and Syed Naqvi of Washington, D.C., along with Dr. Sayyid Syeed of Washington; Sheik Yasir Qadhi of New Haven, Conn.; and Laila Muhammad of Chicago. Muhammad is the daughter of American Muslim leader W.D. Muhammad and granddaughter of Elijah Muhammad, leader of the Nation of Islam. U.S. government officials, the State Department’s special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism, and the U.S. ambassador to the Organization of the Islamic Conference also participated. 

In 2001, Yasir Qadhi, one of the imams on the trip, called the Holocaust a hoax, but he later said his comment had been a mistake. After the trip earlier this month, Qadhi told the N.J. Star-Ledger, "It was a very moving experience for all of us imams, in particular myself. I had never seen anything like this. I was just overwhelmed throughout the entire trip. I was just overwhelmed at the sheer inhumanity of it. I could not comprehend how such evil could be unleashed."

The Aug. 7-11 trip was co-sponsored by a German think tank, the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, and a New Jersey-based interfaith group called the Center for Interreligious Understanding.

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