When Muslims Take Part in Holocaust Memorial Day Events, They Are Following the Example of the Prophet

By Sardar, Ziauddin | New Statesman (1996), January 23, 2006 | Go to article overview

When Muslims Take Part in Holocaust Memorial Day Events, They Are Following the Example of the Prophet


Sardar, Ziauddin, New Statesman (1996)


I am clearly one of those foolish Muslims who have "succumbed to Zionist pressure". I think the salutary lessons of the Holocaust should be remembered. I think that Holocaust Memorial Day, designated by the UK, with the support of the United Nations, as 27 January, is an important commemoration. And I think that Muslims should take an active part in the memorial service and other commemorative events across Britain.

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But the Muslim Council of Britain, which has been denouncing Holocaust Memorial Day since its inception in 2001, believes that Muslims who think like me have crossed over to the enemy camp and become Zionist sympathisers. "Sir" Iqbal Sacranie, the increasingly nutty secretary general of the council, has refused to attend the memorial service. While the council has repeatedly condemned the Nazi atrocities as "an enormous crime against humanity", it wants the day renamed "Genocide Memorial Day", so that it can be "inclusive of the sufferings of all people" and recognise horrors such as the genocide of Muslims in Chechnya and Bosnia. Until this is done, it says, Muslims should shun the event, and those who continue to support it are traitors to the cause of Islam.

We should, without doubt, remember all genocides--and not just the massacres of Muslims in Chechnya and Bosnia, but also the mass execution of Muslims in Gujarat, the systematic slaughter of the black Sudanese in Darfur by Arab janjaweed and the genocide in Rwanda, to name but a few. Yet not all genocides are the same, even though they are all horrendously evil acts. Apples and grapes alike are fruit, but they are distinctively different products of entirely different soils.

The Holocaust cannot be generalised. It is unparalleled both in its sheer magnitude and the sophistication with which it was carried out. As Zygmunt Bauman, one of our most profound social thinkers, shows in Modernity and the Holocaust, the systematic genocide of the Jews would not have been possible without modern means of management and execution. The Holocaust is thus a distinct product of modernity and, as such, it is also an event specific to the history of modernity. Moreover, as a turning point in how difference was seen, it is a special moment in European history.

Jews as Jews naturally have a right to mark this most horrendous moment in their history. And Muslims, as human beings, should not only join them in their sorrow and suffering but should learn its significance for modernity. By refusing to attend Holocaust Memorial Day the Muslim Council of Britain did more than show its ignorance of European history. It unwittingly declared that Jewish suffering was less important than the suffering of others. …

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