In an attempt to counter the growth of Holocaust denial in the Middle East, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) brought a group of imams and rabbis together in the Longworth House Office Building on Wednesday for a reflection on the genocide against the Jews.
The group of Muslim leaders was a part of eight who, under the guidance of Rabbi Jack Bemporad of the Center for Interreligious Understanding, visited the sites of concentration camps in Dachau, Germany, and Auschwitz, Poland, in early August in an unprecedented interfaith trip.
Reflecting on their trip, and the ashes and bones that remain decades after the atrocity, the imams called for all Muslims and all people of other faiths to condemn Holocaust denial.
“I’ve seen the hair, the shoes, the photographs of people being put to death,” said Imam Muhamad Maged, vice president of the Islamic Society of North America. He said the preserved areas, including the walls where people were shot and barracks where others were kept like animals, make the Holocaust impossible to deny.
The group visited sites where German doctors examined victims and, with a thumbs-up or thumbs-down signal, directed 90 percent to extermination rooms and the rest to rough living quarters.
One photo from the trip depicts the Muslim leaders prostrating in prayer just below a bronze sculpture of Holocaust victims caught between barbed wire.
“No good Muslim can be a Holocaust denier,” Bemporad said.
But Hannah Rosenthal, a State Department special envoy on anti-Semitism and the daughter of a Holocaust survivor, said that denial of the genocide is growing, especially in Muslim countries.
The Longworth gathering came at a time when some leaders in the Middle East, including Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, continue to question the factuality of the genocide or call historical records of the atrocity a myth.
“Holocaust denial is a form of anti-Semitism,” Rosenthal said.
“Anti-Semitism is not a problem of the past,” said Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress. “We must remain vigilant and speak up against it.”
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) also visited the meeting, calling anti-Semitism and fear of Islam “unacceptable” and thanking the leaders for standing against Holocaust denial.