U.S., Austrian Muslims to attend Vienna Kristallnacht ceremony

(JTA) — An influential imam from New York is scheduled to attend the Austrian Parliament’s commemoration of the Kristallnacht pogroms to signal his opposition to anti-Semitism.

“I am here to represent my community and to defend our Jewish friends from anti-Semitic attacks, including by Muslims,” Imam Ali Shamsi, a former preacher at one of New York City’s largest mosques, said of his visit to Vienna.

Shamsi and Rabbi Marc Schneier of the Hampton Synagogue will be representing the New York-based  Foundation For Ethnic Understanding.

Also attending the commemoration ceremony on the 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht will be the president of the Islamic Religious Authority of Austria, Fuat Sanac, along with representatives of Austria’s Jewish community.

Dozens of people died in the Nov. 9, 1938 pogroms orchestrated by Nazi authorities. Some historians view the Kristallnacht as the opening shot in the Nazi drive to annihilate European Jewry.

Austria has about 7,000 Jews and more than a half-million Muslims, or 6.2 percent of the total population.

Oskar Deutsch, the head of Vienna’s Jewish Community, in January said his organizations had recorded 135 anti-Semitic attacks in Austria in 2012 compared to 71 the previous year.

The perpetrators, he said, were from “the right, radical Islamists and the left-wing extremists.”

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