Letter: Muslims who deny Holocaust

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Sir: The criminalisation of Holocaust denial ("Blair may make denial of Holocaust an offence", 30 January, Letters, 4 February) would have far-reaching consequences for race and community relations.

The majority of Holocaust deniers in this country are not white skinheads or even rogue historians but members of the other ethnic minority communities. In the twenty-odd years I have taught English as a second language in local authority colleges to immigrants and refugees in inner London, most of the very large number of vociferous Holocaust deniers I have encountered have been young Muslims.

In my opinion, their denial of the Holocaust comes more from a hatred of Israeli and American foreign policy than from any deep study of or even interest in 20th-century European history. It is likely that if and when Israeli and American foreign policy becomes more humane in the Middle East, then young Muslims (and others from the Third World) will lose their undoubted passion for Holocaust denial.

In the meantime, it would be wise for us to remember the essential liberal principle, that for a tolerant, pluralistic, democratic society to privilege the narratives of one ethnic/religious (and in this case, Euro-centric) grouping above another, is in effect to destroy the tolerance, the pluralism and the democratic credentials of that society. Ironic though it may be, a liberal society cannot criminalise Holocaust denial.


London NW10