ING Perspective on Holocaust Conference in Iran

(San Jose, 12/14/06) The recent conference on the Holocaust convened by President Ahmadinejad of Iran on December 11-12th has provoked widespread controversy and condemnation, including by numerous Muslim organizations and individuals who find it reprehensible that an historical event of this magnitude and horror would be used for political purposes. Based on media reports, attendees and speakers included Holocaust deniers, anti-Semites, and racists, such as former Klan leaders. While Iran is a nation with a majority Muslim population, and President Ahmadinejad claims to head an Islamic State, many Americans of other faiths may be wondering how these actions reconcile with Islamic beliefs and practices. Holding a conference that perpetuates the denial of a historical fact and other recent actions such as holding a cartoon contest on the Holocaust directly contradict Islamic principals that prohibit responding to injustice with another injustice, or vilifying an entire group of people. While Muslims have a long and rich history of learning and debate, such activity must be done with objectivity and respect.

In the case of the Holocaust, it is an established historical fact with irrefutable evidence from a multitude of sources and witnesses who testify both to the magnitude and atrocity of the crime.

As for anti-Semitism or the hatred of any group of people, this is unequivocally condemned in Islam. Islam forbids even the mocking or disrespect of a person due to his religious or racial background, let alone making light of the suffering of an entire community in such a heinous historical event as the Holocaust. The Quran calls upon Muslims to work for justice for all oppressed people and to speak out against any injustice, regardless of the perpetrator.

The Quran stresses that human diversity is part of God’s plan, and that the active engagement of diverse peoples is essential for growth and development of humanity, as found in the following Quranic passages:

“And among the signs of God is the constitution of the heavens and the earth, and the diversity of your languages and colors; surely there are signs in that for those who know.” 30:22

“O humankind, We created you from a male and a female, and We made you races and tribes for you to get to know each other. The noblest of you in the sight of God are those of you who are most conscientious. And God is omniscient, fully aware.” 49:13

“For each of them, We have established a law, and a revealed way. And if God wished, God would have made you a single nation; but the intent is to test you in what God has given you. So let your goals be everything good. Your destiny, everyone, is to God, Who will tell you about that wherein you differed.” 5:48

Moreover, the Quran emphasizes that what is important in this life in the realm of human relations is good deeds, which applies to Muslims and non-Muslims alike as in the following verses:

“…For every community faces a direction of its own, of which God is the focal point. Vie, therefore, with one another in doing good works. Where ever you may be, God will gather you all unto Himself, for, verily, God has the power to will anything.” 2:148

“The Muslims, the Jews, the Christians, and the Sabians, any who believe in God and the last day and do good have their reward with their Lord. There is nothing for them to fear; they will not sorrow.” 2:62

We encourage people of all faiths to turn this failed conference into an occasion for outreach and understanding. We invite our readers to take this as an opportunity to learn more about the Holocaust by visiting Holocaust memorials in their local areas as well as to build or reinforce relations where they exist with Jewish neighbors and communities. It is only by walking in the footsteps of others that we can come to recognize and understand each other’s experiences and realities.