Muslim clerics visit Nazi death camp
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Muslim clerics visit Nazi death camp

‘I tried to prevent my tears from my eyes because it’s very difficult to see how many people were killed without any reason,’ Ramallah imam says

The Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp (Ilan Ben Zion/Times of Israel)
The Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp (Ilan Ben Zion/Times of Israel)

Imams from the US and several Muslim countries are touring Poland this week to learn more about European Jewry.

Thirteen imams from Indonesia, the Palestinian Authority, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Bosnia and other Muslim lands, along with five American imams, visited the new Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw on Monday.

The imams, many of whom are teachers at Islamic universities, came to learn more about the history of the Jewish people, including Jewish life in Europe before the Holocaust.

The group visited Auschwitz on Wednesday and conducted a traditional Islamic prayer for the dead at the site.

“When I saw what happened for the people here, I tried to prevent my tears from my eyes because it’s very difficult to see how many people were killed without any reason,” Barakat Hasan, an imam from Ramallah, told the AFP.

“I am from Palestine and my people are suffering now since 65 years until now, so of course I feel for others who have suffering,” he said.

“What can you say? You’re speechless. What you have seen is beyond human imagination,” said Mohamed Magid, president of the Islamic Society of North America. “Whether in Europe today or in the Muslim world, my call to humanity: End racism, for God’s sake, end anti-Semitism, for God’s sake, end Islamophobia for God’s sake, end sexism for God’s sake… Enough is enough,” he added.

Representatives of the US State Department, which organized the trip, and American Jewish organizations accompanied the group.

“Auschwitz is the world’s symbol in talking about man, so beyond the boundaries of cultural and religious divisions,” the director of the Auschwitz museum, Piotr Cywinski, told JTA. “Rejecting a message from Auschwitz would be tantamount to rejection of the knowledge of man.

“In this sense, everyone should understand what the experience of Auschwitz speaks of to his own culture, his own traditions, his own perception of the world.”

The imams also were scheduled to visit places connected to the Warsaw and Krakow ghettos, and to meet with Polish Righteous Among the Nations, as well as Catholic, Muslim and Jewish religious leaders. The imams also will eat a kosher dinner with Polish Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich.

The visit ends on Friday.

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