Today, for the twelfth year running, the UK marks Holocaust Memorial
Day. The date commemorates the liberation of Auschwitz on January 27,
It pains me to admit this, but the attitude of many of my fellow
Muslims towards the Holocaust is a source of great shame to me. In the
Middle East Holocaust denial is rife, from the President of Iran to the
taxi drivers of Cairo. At home British Muslim
attitudes are defined not just by denial but by indifference.
Few Muslims or mosques take part in the memorial day. In 2006 a
Channel 4 poll found that a quarter of British Muslims didn’t know what
the Holocaust was and only one in three believed it had occurred. This
is scandalous. How can we claim to be proud, integrated,
European Muslims if we ignore a seminal moment in the history of this
We British Muslims prefer to wallow in vicarious victimhood. Only
“our” tragedies matter: Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Kashmir, Chechnya
roll off our tongues. But none of these surpasses the Holocaust’s
barbarism. The Nazi genocide cannot be relativised
or generalised. It was an unprecedented act of industrial slaughter; a
uniquely horrific crime against humanity.
Yet between 2001 and 2007 the Muslim Council of Britain took the
morally abhorrent (and strategically stupid) decision to boycott the
day, crassly insisting that it be renamed “Genocide Memorial Day”. In
2008, the boycott was dropped only to be resumed in
2009 after Israel’s assault on Gaza. I yield to no one in my support
for the Palestinian cause. But denying or ignoring the Holocaust does
nothing to advance that cause. Palestinian suffering is not reduced by
belittling the mass murder of Europe’s Jews.
By joining events to mark the day, British Muslims can emulate our
Prophet. Muhammad once saw a Jewish funeral procession pass by and stood
up as a sign of respect. His companions asked why he stood up for a
dead Jew. “Is he not a human being?” replied the
Islam is not an exclusive or separatist faith. Thankfully, since
2010, the council has dropped its boycott. But the whole British Muslim
community must do much more to remember the Holocaust – whether through
hosting events at our mosques or sending our
children to visit Auschwitz.
“Every man is your brother,” the great Muslim caliph Ali ibn Abu
Talib once proclaimed. “He is either your brother in faith or your
brother in humanity.” On Holocaust Memorial Day let us stand side by
side with our Jewish brethren and together mourn the
deaths of six million innocent souls.
The Times of London