UK: British Muslims defy boycott of Holocaust Memorial Day

Common Ground News Service
Despite the boycott of Holocaust Memorial Day by England's main Muslim organisation, some Islamic groups decided to commemorate the day.
City Circle, a network of young Muslim professionals, joined the Holocaust Educational Trust last to remember the victims of the Holocaust and other more recent genocides.
Meanwhile, Muslim and Jewish young professionals heard the first-hand testimony of Holocaust survivor Trude Levi and Rwandan genocide survivor Jean Mazimpaka. Dr. Ger Duijzings, a specialist on East European Studies, will also make comments, with a particular focus on the Kosovo crisis, with Prof. Brian Brivati, an author and academic expert on comparative genocide.

Prior to the talk, attendees will be invited to sign the Holocaust Memorial Day Book of Commitment. The survivor's testimony will be followed by a question and answer session to enable attendees to understand from a personal perspective the nature of the Holocaust and to explore its lessons in more depth.

The main Muslim organisation in the UK, the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), maintains a boycott of Holocaust Memorial Day on the grounds that it fails to remember the plight of the "Palestinian genocide".

However last month, MCB's Central Working Committee discussed whether or not to accept the invitation this year. In a statement, they said: "A vote was held and it was decided to undertake a wider consultation of British Muslims on this issue."

Ahead of the City Circle event, Asim Siddiqui, chairman of the group, said that the Holocaust "represents an example of mass murder and genocide that should never be forgotten, particularly at a time when Europe is uneasy about, and even fearful of, its minorities, including its Muslims."

"The Srebrenica massacre on our doorstep, only 11 years ago, and the Rwandan genocide of 1994, in which up to a million people were killed," he continued, "remind us that no one can afford to be complacent about any increase in racism and intolerance in Europe or anywhere else."

The chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, Karen Pollock, said: "We are delighted that we could facilitate this event for City Circle and it demonstrates what so many members of the Muslim community have expressed to us - that there is a role for all communities to play in Holocaust Memorial Day."

In addition to remembering those who were lost during the Holocaust, she added that the day "provides the opportunity to reflect on more recent genocides, such as Rwanda and Bosnia. To have survivors from these tragedies also supporting the event serves as a reminder to all of us that discrimination and prejudice continue today."

"It is our duty to stand up to those groups and individuals who encourage division and hatred in our communities."

MCB first called for a boycott in 2003. Iqbal Sacranie, then secretary-general of the MCB, said in a press statement: "We are fully with the Jewish community in their pain and anguish. None of us must ever forget how the Holocaust began. We must remember it began with hatred that dehumanised an entire people, fostered state brutality and made second class citizens of honest, innocent people because of their religion and ethnic identity."

Referring to those vilified and seen as a threat, he said they "could be subjected to group punishment, dispossession and impoverishment while the rest of the world stood idly by, washing its hands of despair and suffering that kept getting worse. We must do more than remember and reflect on the past, we must be able to see when the same abuses occur in our time."

"The living memorial for the victims of the Nazi Holocaust is ensuring we make the cry 'Never Again' real for all people who suffer, everywhere," he said.

"We honour the dead most sincerely by working to end suffering and bring peace with justice to those who live without hope today. 'Ethnic cleansing' is not a thing of the past; it is a present terror. Remembrance must, therefore, refocus our moral vision and rededicate our commitment to prevent current and future inhumanity, state brutality and crimes against humanity."

He said that despite their persistent request, "regrettably the memorial ceremony in its present form excludes and ignores other ongoing genocide and human rights abuses around the world, notably in the Occupied Palestinian Territories."

"Much as we wanted to be there," he said they were unable to join the memorial ceremony but he urged the Home Secretary to make the Memorial Day inclusive of the sufferings of all people.

"Genocide is the most abhorrent and outrageous crime against humanity and we are not going to prevent it by selectively remembering only some of its victims."

* Jonny Paul is a regular contributor to the Jerusalem Post. This abridged article is distributed by the Common Ground News Service (CGNews) and can be accessed at The full text can be found at

Source: Jerusalem Post, 22 January 2007,