At the Dachau Death Camps, Muslim Leaders Empathize With Jews’ Pain

Posted on August 16, 2010

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A. J. Goldmann, Forward.com

Krakow, Poland — It was a perfect summer day at the Dachau concentration camp. The clear skies and pleasant breeze seemed almost offensive. And there, beneath the main monument, a bronze sculpture of writhing bodies intermeshed with barbed wire, was an uncommon sight: a group of Muslims leaders prostrate in prayer.

Muslims Engaged in Prayers at Dachau

Prayers and Learning: Muslim delegates (above) engage in their afternoon prayers before the main monument at Dachau, during a visit by North American Muslim leaders to Nazi concentration camps. Max Mannheimer, 90, who survived Auschwitz and Dachau, shows the delegates the number imprinted on his arm as he recounts his war- time experience.

At the end of the service, prayer leader Muzammil Siddiqi, imam of the Islamic Society of Orange County, California, offered up an additional prayer: “We pray to God that this will not happen to the Jewish people or to any people anymore.”

Siddiqi was one of eight American Muslim leaders on a study tour to Dachau and Auschwitz that was co-sponsored by a German think tank and the Center for Interreligious Understanding, a New Jersey-based interfaith dialogue group. The delegation’s sole female member was Laila Muhammad, daughter of the late American Muslim leader W.D. Muhammad and granddaughter of Elijah Muhammad, the late leader of the Nation of Islam.

The excursion, which ran from August 8 through August 10, was one the U.S. government itself invested with great importance. Accompanying the group were several government officials, including Hannah Rosenthal, the State Department’s special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism, and Rashad Hussain, special envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference.

The unusual trip was the brainchild of Marshall Breger, an Orthodox Jew and a Republican who served as a senior official in the administrations of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. Breger, who wore his yarmulke on every leg of the trip, said he first had the idea of organizing the expedition last year, while he was in Israel during the visit of Pope Benedict XVI. He described it simply as a kind of eureka moment. [more]

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