Muslim leaders join Holocaust survivors to pray at Auschwitz in ‘groundbreaking’ visit

Muslim World League chief says marking anniversary of liberation of death camp ‘sacred duty and profound honour’

Tim Wyatt
Friday 24 January 2020 11:36 GMT
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Muslim faith leaders perform Islamic prayers during a visit to Auschwitz
Muslim faith leaders perform Islamic prayers during a visit to Auschwitz (Getty)

Senior Muslim leaders have joined the descendants of Holocaust survivors in prayer during a historic visit to Auschwitz.

The delegation was led by Mohammad bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa, the secretary general of the Saudi Arabia-funded Muslim World League, and is thought to be the most senior group of Islamic faith representatives to ever visit a Nazi death camp.

“To be here, among the children of Holocaust survivors and members of the Jewish and Islamic communities, is both a sacred duty and a profound honour,” Mr Al-Issa said during the ground-breaking visit.

“The unconscionable crimes to which we bear witness today are truly crimes against humanity. That is to say, a violation of us all, an affront to all of God’s children.”

The Muslim leaders stood side by side with figures from the oldest Jewish advocacy group in the United States, the American Jewish Committee, which had helped organise the trip.

At one point while touring the camp, dozens of those in the 62-strong Muslim delegation from 28 countries bowed their heads to the floor and prayed.

The visit came just days before international commemorations to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz by the Soviet Red Army on 27 January 1945.

The network of concentration camps in Auschwitz, situated in southern Poland – then occupied by Germany during the Second World War - held 1.3 million people, of whom 1.1 million were killed.

Most of those who died in the camps were Jews, including 865,000 who were immediately gassed to death on their arrival.

David Harris from the American Jewish Committee said the trip led by Mr Al-Issa was “the most senior Islamic leadership delegation to ever visit Auschwitz or any Nazi German death camp”.

Among those who travelled from the US to the ceremony were children of Holocaust survivors.

In recent years, the Muslim World League has sought to promote a more moderate brand of Islam and build relationships with Jewish groups, in line with the modernisation programme launched by Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The charity was founded by Saudi Arabia in 1962 and remains primarily funded by the oil-rich Gulf monarchy.

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