U.S. Muslim group endorses Gazan visit to Holocaust museum


WASHINGTON (JTA) — A U.S. Muslim umbrella group strongly endorsed plans to bring Gaza Strip youths to the U.S. Holocaust museum in the wake of Hamas opposition.

The Islamic Society of North America wrote to the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, which solicited endorsements in the wake of reports that Hamas, the terrorist group that controls Gaza, had criticized the  the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for including the museum on a forthcoming U.S. tour for top Gaza students.

"We want to ensure that the UNRWA delegation of students visits the nation’s capital and its various museums and institutions, including the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum," Islamic Society national director Sayyid Syeed said in a letter Dec. 20 to Rabbi Marc Schneier, the president of the foundation. "We believe that this museum, in particular, has tremendous educational value and helps visitors appreciate the historical result of unbridled hate and human manipulation. We have taken delegations of Muslim leaders and imams to visit the museum, and each time, we have seen how transformative an experience it is."

Hamas over the weekend called on UNRWA not to include the museum on its tour, Ynet reported.

"UNRWA must focus on materials regarding the rights of the Palestinian refugees without dealing with persecution in other areas of the world," Ynet quoted Hamas as saying. "The memory of the children of Gaza cannot withstand the suffering of all of the persecuted people around the world. The suffering caused by the Jewish occupiers is enough."

Schneier in a statement called the Hamas statement "another example of extremists trying to impose a distorted view of history upon its followers.  Fortunately the voices of those who are seeking peace and tolerance between Jews and Muslims are louder than those seeking to further divide us."

UNRWA is the U.N. agency that administers relief and education to Palestinian refugees.

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