Saturday, December 23, 2006

Not in our name

What Hirsi Ali was asking for in Riyadh, Cairo, Lahore, Khartoum or Jakarta has at least happened in Washington.

Local Muslim leaders lit candles yesterday at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum to commemorate Jewish suffering under the Nazis, in a ceremony held just days after Iran had a conference denying the genocide.

After the speeches yesterday, Bloomfield invited the visitors to light candles to remember the Holocaust victims and Muslims who rescued some of the besieged Jews. One by one, the guests silently shuffled along the wallside bank of candles: the tall imam in his round Muslim cap, known as a kufi; a woman in a Muslim head scarf; Muslim men in business suits; and three elderly women in pantsuits from the D.C. suburbs, survivors of the genocide.

One of them, Johanna Neumann, recounted at the ceremony how Muslims saved her Jewish family. Members of her family had fled from Germany to Albania, where Muslim families sheltered them and hid their identity during the Nazi occupation.

"Everybody knew who we were. Nobody would even have thought of denouncing us" to the Nazis, said the tiny 76-year-old Silver Spring resident. "These people deserve every respect anybody can give them."
Even more important, this ceremony of light was brough about by a Muslim.
The idea for the ceremony originated with Magid, whose Sterling mosque has been active in interfaith efforts. After hearing radio reports about the Iranian meeting, "I said to myself, 'We have to, as Muslim leaders . . . show solidarity with our fellow Jewish Americans,' " Magid recalled after the speeches.
This is the first time I have heard of Muslims organising so publically to say 'Not in my name' in the face of an outrage committed by co-religionists. How come it can happen in the US and not elsewhere?

You may also like to read Anthony Julius and Simon Schama's response to Berger's call for yet another boycott of Israel. They show how the tired old rhetorical trope of comparing Israel to apartheid South Africa is fatuous, misleading and self-defeating, how the aims of such a boycott are meaningless and its motivation questionable. In other words, this latest call is just more blather from a group of people who lost all moral authority many years ago and have little to say that would help anyone, Palestinian or otherwise.

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