US media is reporting on a trip of eight Muslim-American clerics accompanied by US officials to the sites of the former Dachau and Auschwitz concentration camps. According to one report:
U.S. officials participated in a trip of eight Muslim-American clerics to the sites of the former Dachau and Auschwitz concentration camps last week in what one official called a transformative experience. “These Muslim leaders were experiencing something they knew nothing about,” President Barack Obama’s envoy to combat anti-Semitism, Hannah Rosenthal, told POLITICO Tuesday. Rosenthal lost many family members at Auschwitz, including her grandparents. “I can’t believe anyone walks into Auschwitz and leaves the same person. I watched them break down. I broke down in front of suitcases. … It is the cemetery of my whole family.” The participating imams “were totally aware that they were visiting my family cemetery, and they were very loving about it,” Rosenthal said. At the end, the imams — from a broad range of backgrounds — issued a far-reaching statement, condemning anti-Semitism, Holocaust denial and religious bigotry. … Beyond Rosenthal, among those from the Obama, Reagan and George W. Bush administrations who accompanied the imams on the Aug. 7-11 trip to Germany and Poland were Rashad Hussain, Obama’s envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference; Nasreen Badat, a State Department official working on religious freedom issues; Marshall Breger, former special assistant to Reagan for public liaison and his liaison with the Jewish community; and Suhail Khan, an official in Bush’s public liaison office. Also participating was Rabbi Jack Bemporad from New Jersey. The trip was co-sponsored by Germany’s Konrad Adenauer Foundation and the Center for Interreligious Understanding, of which Bemporad is executive director. The letter was signed by Imam Abdullah T. Antepli, the Muslim chaplain of Duke University; Imam Syed Naqvi, director of the Islamic Interfaith Center in Washington; Shaikh Yasir Qadhi, dean of academics for the AlMaghrib Institute in New Haven, Conn.; Laila Muhammad, daughter of late Imam W.D. Muhammad of Chicago; Imam Suhaib Webb of the Muslim Community Association of Santa Clara, Calif.; Sayyid Syeed, national director of the Islamic Society of North America’s Office of Interfaith & Community Services; Imam Muhamad Maged of the All-Dulles-Area Muslim Society in Virginia and vice president of the Islamic Society of North America; and Imam Muzammil Siddiqi of the Islamic Center of Orange County, Calif….Organizers say they tried to pick imams from a wide range of American constituencies.“The Muslim faith and community leaders represented the broad diversity of the Muslim-American community including Arab, South Asian, African-American, Caucasian, Sunni, Shiite, men, women, young and older established leaders,” Khan told POLITICO. “Most knew very little about the Holocaust, and all were eager to learn and personally witness the reality of this historical tragedy.”…Webb said he and Rabbi Bemporad and Imam Muhamad Maged have discussed organizing future trips for Jewish and Muslim youth groups to Poland, Germany and Bosnia.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Germany’s Konrad Adenauer Foundation was the sole sponsor of the trip. Suhail Khan’s name was also spelled incorrectly.
For the full statement, go here.
At least two of the Muslim clerics on the trip have in the past been associated with Holocaust denial and/or Holocaust deniers. In 2001 Yasir Qadhi, was embroiled in controversy centered on his remarks denying the Holocaust. According to the UK Sunday Telegraph (see Note 1):
In 2001, Qadhi described the holocaust as a hoax, claiming that “Hitler never intended to mass-destroy the Jews” and “all this [the Holocaust]is false propaganda”. Although he later claimed he had been misled into making these statements, he more recently posted links to articles by a notorious Holocaust denier on an Islamic online forum, according to the Centre for Social Cohesion.
According to investigative research posted on the GMBDW, Dr. Siddiqi and other ISNA leaders have in the past enjoyed relationships with individuals known to have engaged in Holocaust denial activity. These individuals include:
- Dr. William Baker who was known to have had a rightwing extremist and anti-Semitic background which included serving as national chairman of Costa Mesa-based Holocaust denier Willis Carto’s Populist Party.
- Harun Yaya, the pen name of an individual identified as Adan Oknar, a well-known author of several anti-Semitic and Holocaust denial books.
- Dr. M. Amir Ali, the late founder and former President of the board of directors of the Institute of Islamic Information & Education in Chicago (IIIE) whose website was filled with extremely virulent expressions of anti-Semitism. Dr. Siddiqi, a past President of ISNA, was an early member of the board of IIIE.
ISNA has a long history of fundamentalism, anti-semitism, and support for terrorism and during the recent Holy Land Foundation terrorism financing trial, ISNA was named as an unindicted co-conspirator as a result of what the government called “ISNA’s and NAIT’s intimate relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood, the Palestine Committee, and the defendants in this case.”
(note 1: The Sunday Telegraph (London) January 3, 2010 “special investigation; Bomber’s mentor invited to spread hate in Britain; Banned extremist addressed young audiences at universities and mosques seven times in three years)