Muslim Leaders’ Historic Visit to Auschwitz

On January 23, Sheikh Mohammad al-Issa, the chairman of the influential Saudi Arabia-based Muslim World Society, led a group of Islamic clergymen on a visit to Auschwitz. The visit, writes Edy Cohen, suggests a tectonic shift in Muslim attitudes toward the Holocaust, which has often been downplayed or altogether denied. More typical is the reaction of the Lebanese journalists who filed a complaint in court about a prominent Shiite cleric from their country who joined Issa—accusing him of “contact with the Zionist enemy, contempt for the Islamic religion, and inciting war between Muslims.” Cohen explains:

Many if not most Arabs are only able to see the genocide [of European Jews] in terms of the problems it ostensibly caused Arabs, namely the Palestinians’ loss of the “country” they never had. . . . One of the first cases of public Arab denial of the Holocaust was when [Arab countries] put pressure on West Germany over the issue of German reparations to Holocaust survivors and the state of Israel. In a rare show of unity, the Arab states demanded that Bonn not compensate individual Jews or Israel but should instead give the money to the Palestinians. The Arab League even threatened to sever ties with and boycott West Germany, claiming the Jews were responsible for World War II.

The . . . most common theory belongs to the school of Mahmoud Abbas, chairman of the Palestinian Authority. In . . . his doctoral dissertation, [he] claimed that the Holocaust was a Jewish conspiracy that began when Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, collaborated with Hitler to kill as many Jews as he could in order to justify the establishment of a Jewish state in the land of Israel.

Sadly, in the absence of proper education, many Arabs believe at least one of these conspiracy theories. In Arab countries, not only do [schools] not teach the truth about the Holocaust, but they encourage suspicion toward all books and histories that deal with the subject. The Muslim delegation’s visit to the death camp was considered impossible just a few years ago. There is no doubt that the new openness in Israel’s relationships with the Gulf States contributed to making this historic event a reality.

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Read more at BESA Center

More about: Arab anti-Semitism, Holocaust denial, Holocaust remembrance, Israel-Arab relations, Muslim-Jewish relations, Saudi Arabia

How the Death of Mahsa Amini Changed Iran—and Its Western Apologists

Sept. 28 2022

On September 16, a twenty-two-year-old named Mahsa Amini was arrested by the Iranian morality police for improperly wearing a hijab. Her death in custody three days later, evidently after being severely beaten, sparked waves of intense protests throughout the country. Since then, the Iranian authorities have killed dozens more in trying to quell the unrest. Nervana Mahmoud comments on how Amini’s death has been felt inside and outside of the Islamic Republic:

[I]n Western countries, the glamorizing of the hijab has been going on for decades. Even Playboy magazine published an article about the first “hijabi” news anchor in American TV history. Meanwhile, questioning the hijab’s authenticity and enforcement has been framed as “Islamophobia.” . . . But the death of Mahsa Amini has changed everything.

Commentators who downplayed the impact of enforced hijab have changed their tune. [Last week], CNN’s Christiane Amanpour declined an interview with the Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi, and the Biden administration imposed sanctions on Iran’s notorious morality police and senior officials for the violence carried out against protesters and for the death of Mahsa Amini.

The visual impact of the scenes in Iran has extended to the Arab world too. Arabic media outlets have felt the winds of change. The death of Mahsa Amini and the resulting protests in Iran are now top headlines, with Arab audiences watching daily as Iranian women from all age groups remove their hijabs and challenge the regime policy.

Iranian women are making history. They are teaching the world—including the Muslim world—about the glaring difference between opting to wear the hijab and being forced to wear it, whether by law or due to social pressure and mental bullying. Finally, non-hijabi women are not afraid to defy, proudly, their Islamist oppressors.

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Read more at Nervana

More about: Arab World, Iran, Women in Islam