Imams brief congressman on trip to concentration camps to battle anti-Semitism
September 23rd, 2010
07:13 AM ET

Imams brief congressman on trip to concentration camps to battle anti-Semitism

WASHINGTON (CNN) - An American imam took an eye-opening tour last month of the Dachau and Auschwitz death camps and said that what he saw was unfathomable - and undeniable.

"You see the ashes of people. You see the pictures. You walk the trail; you see the gas chambers," said Imam Muhamad Maged of the All-Dulles-Area Muslim Society in Virginia, vice president of the Islamic Society of North America.

"It is beyond imagination that somebody would do something like that."

Maged was one of a group of imams who went on the trip. And on Wednesday, they described their visit in a public briefing on Capitol Hill led by U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minnesota.

Rabbi Jack Bemporad, one of the trip's leaders who has long worked on interfaith projects, and Marshall Breger, a professor of law at the Catholic University of America in Washington who is Jewish, led the weeklong trip. It was co-sponsored by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation and Bemporad's group, the Center for Interreligious Understanding in New Jersey.

The trip was designed to fight anti-Semitism and the denial of the Holocaust, the Nazi attempt to exterminate world Jewry during World War II. It comes amid tensions in the West over Islam and hostility between Jews and Muslims over the problems in the Middle East.

"It occurred to me that the important thing was for them to go there and simply say, 'this is what the truth is.' Not a political statement, not a propaganda statement, not even necessarily a religious statement. It had to be a statement in a sense that bore witness to what was the truth," Bemporad said at the briefing.

"There is no way you can deny evidence of history when you have seen the actual hair, the shoes," he said referring to exhibits at Auschwitz that display hills of hair and shoes from the tens of thousands of Jews gassed there.

Hannah Rosenthal, the U.S. State Department special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism, said she accompanied the imams because of her concern about what she said is the rise of Holocaust denial that has taken root in the Muslim world.

"Holocaust denial doesn't just feed anti-Semitism, it is anti-Semitism, and it is growing," she said.

Rosenthal monitors anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial, and she said the trip was so important for fighting those issues and raising awareness in the Muslim community in the United States.

"Sometimes the message is the most important thing. And sometimes it's the messenger," she said: Having Muslim leaders condemn anti-Semitism carried more weight than her own condemnation would.

As the imams, the rabbi and Rosenthal were in Europe, a Florida pastor threatened to burn the Quran, and demonstrators took to the streets in Manhattan to protest the building of an Islamic center so close to ground zero.

For Bemporad, the rhetoric around those two events and subsequent debates
was eerily familiar.

"The same patterns that I studied teaching Jewish history, with respect to anti-Semitism, are now occurring with respect to anti-Muslim," Bemporad said. "It's the same propaganda, it's the same character assassinations, it's the same dehumanization, it's the same de-contextualization. [Jews] have to be the ones, because of our history, have to stand up against what's happening to the Muslim community."

Ellison, who is a Muslim himself, said he traveled to Auschwitz as a college exchange student and said "that had a transformative effect on me," It was one of the main reasons he got involved with the group who took part in the briefing.

The lawmaker said the administration's response to the threats of Quran-burning was the right one.

"What they did was help maintain America's level of liberty and freedom, where nobody has to fear who they are based on whether they have a kufi on or hijab on or a yarmulke, whether you're a Mormon or a Hindu, you can still worship as you please. It's your business, and you don't have to fear."

Maged spoke about the importance in Islam to speak truth.

"One of the most dangerous things in Islam is to have a false testimony,
and when someone denies the Holocaust, they bear false testimony."

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Interfaith issues • Islam • Judaism • Leaders • Persecution • Politics • Quran

soundoff (287 Responses)
  1. Muneef

    With all respect to comments of views on Larry King to Interview Stephen Hawking about the form of God?? The form of God in the Quran as says to be of Light more like of the moon light since, says Alqamar Nora. Alla Noor Alsamowat Walalard Walisa Kamathlhw Noor. Meaning God Allah is the light of heavens and earth and there is no light like him.
    God Allah has given the form of his being in the Quran at Sura 24:35 puzzle of which I challenge Mr.Stephen Hawking or NASA to decode it and if they did they would not declare it because Quran is a challenge to science and I am sure if this guy is intelligent enough through understanding the miracals of the Quran would be able to decode many miracles that could be found just as those found here:http://www.quranmiracles.com/?gclid=CJz9p8HBo6QCFUWQzAodpWdE6A

    September 28, 2010 at 12:29 am |
  2. Muneef


    September 25, 2010 at 7:24 pm |
    • Muneef

      Check above lead very interesting to read.

      September 25, 2010 at 7:26 pm |
  3. Muneef

    Man of God respectable Terry Jones,of Florida's Dove's Church, maybe a day would come that the world and Muslims would thank you for your causing all these discussions to come out today's on this site blogs and many other sites blogs and to it leading to have more people religious discussions leading them read and learn more about Islam and the Quran many who's eyes had opened to reality converted to Islam or at least respect Muslims and their religion. After all you are a man of God and God has made use of you as an antibiotic to be given to faiths that leads to having hidden truths prevailed and explored. May God Allah give you guidance to convert in to Islam or establish a Church that says and calls that God Allah is One and Only and that muhammed was the promised comforter,messenger and being the final of prophets of God....Ameen. Here your Dove will be the Dove of Peace we been waiting is within your hand to help establish. Sohan Allah.

    September 25, 2010 at 9:39 am |
  4. pockets

    Send all the Immans there on a free trip, let them see with their own eyes. Perhaps then they will be able to come to some kind of understanding. Words just don't cut it anymore, they have to experience it all. There is no god, so live your life with respect and dignity for others. What else is there?

    September 24, 2010 at 5:34 pm |
  5. Naija

    Anti-Semitism is bad,I wonder what history will say about Palestine

    September 24, 2010 at 12:22 pm |
  6. Lee Oates

    Reading all of these comments, Pro and Con, leads me to the realization that Religion is the curse of mankind. The sooner it dissapears the better our chance of species survival.

    September 24, 2010 at 11:40 am |
  7. Lee Oates

    In order to get a solid view of the holocaust, one might read the book, "The Holocaust Chronicle" by "Publications International, Ltd". Not only did it describe the holocaust in detail, but its social development. One thing that was clear was that it was not simply Adolf Hitler that was responsible for the holocaust, but the vast majority of European society who went along with it. You can also see the same development occuring in the United States at the present time, only this time it is Muslims. We are blaming 1 billion people for the actions of a handful of terrorist, and justifying the occupation of Israel by European colonizers by using the holocaust as an excuse for the suffering of the people of Palistine. The Holocaust happened and it was horrible. Palastinians are being ghettoized and terriorized, and it is horrible.

    September 24, 2010 at 11:12 am |
  8. Dr Perry Fisher

    I suggest those so called religious leaders visit the slave castles in Cape Coast, Ghana and in Port Harcot, Nigeria ..............I did and did not see one white person in either one of those places.

    September 24, 2010 at 10:15 am |
  9. jay

    Why do I need this guy to visit the camps and say tell us all they were horrible?

    September 24, 2010 at 9:41 am |
  10. Ferdinand of Aragon

    This is Taqiya or round about trickery to project good. It is all sheer bigotry!

    September 24, 2010 at 9:28 am |
    • Kate


      Do you mind if I call you Ferdie? That's nice.

      Anyways, I was just wondering – do you actually have any more words in your vocabulary, or do you have your head really that far up your own ass that the only thing you can croak out is the same word over and over?

      Much more of this and you're going to be giving Reality a run for their money for the most boring repetitive and incorrect postings splattered across every comments section they can find – but at least Reality has pseudo-scientific/statistic sources to come up with. All you're doing is sounding like a broken Palin.

      Just notin'

      September 24, 2010 at 10:10 am |
    • Lee Oates

      That was an excellent response Kate...couldn't agree more.

      September 24, 2010 at 11:16 am |
    • Frogist

      "broken Palin"!!! You almost made me spit milk out of my nose! LOL!
      ... no really, I was drinking milk and almost became a cliche...
      Also Ferdie I found this quite interesting:

      September 24, 2010 at 2:57 pm |
  11. rgray222

    It is a start and a good one. They are to be admired for taking this step!

    September 24, 2010 at 8:44 am |
  12. Natch

    Really too bad that the people who deny the holocaust would refuse to make that trip. Like the "president" of Iran, who would claim it was all some big Hollywood-esque production, made up for his visit.

    Pure evil needs to be kept at bay in this world. Thank God we have brave men & women who will stand on a wall and protect the rest of us!! God bless all the protectors, everywhere!!

    September 24, 2010 at 7:48 am |
  13. Ben

    Wow, they're just like us afterall. Everyone, quick, stop protesting the Ground Zero mosqu, Islamic Center, bar and grill. Blatant pandering.

    September 24, 2010 at 7:43 am |
  14. Rex Magnus


    September 24, 2010 at 7:33 am |
  15. Rex Magnus

    "you see the ashes"

    I've been to both camps and there are no ashes on display.

    September 24, 2010 at 7:32 am |
    • jay

      me too, no ashes, maybe from his peyote

      September 24, 2010 at 9:42 am |
    • Nonimus

      I had assumed he was referring to photographs taken when the camps were liberated, not that he saw the actual ashes.

      September 24, 2010 at 12:55 pm |
    • Nonimus

      Photographs of open oven doors with bones and bodies in the ovens on top of mounds of ashes. This is what was found by Allied troops. wwwDOTarchivesDOTgov/research/ww2/photos/#holocaust

      September 24, 2010 at 12:59 pm |
  16. OmegaMann

    "you see the ashes"

    I've been to both camps and there are no ashes on display.

    There's a room they say was a gas chamber though you'd never know by looking at it.
    Any prison in the US will shave your head upon incarceration there. They also take your garments and give you prison issue ones instead, just like they did at these camps.

    If the Germans were supposedly so efficient and wanted to kill every last jew, why did millions survive in the occupied territories? There are tons of photos of them from when the camps were liberated. The Germans claimed they were just labor camps although many died because of the food shortage at the end of the war and the typhus epidemic.

    I'm not saying there weren't gas chambers, but the more you look into it the more the story gets very shaky. I'm keeping an open mind on it. All sides had a lot to gain by spinning propaganda lies. Israel was built on this stuff.

    September 24, 2010 at 7:30 am |
    • Nonimus

      "I'm keeping an open mind on it."
      Bullsh!t, you are feigning objectivity in order sound believable.
      The evidence for the Holocaust is overwhelming.

      September 24, 2010 at 1:06 pm |
  17. Joe_Smith_III

    The dominant Jewish role in the murders of millions of innocents under their communist/bolshevik evil dictatorships is overwhelming. Nazism rose as a response to the millions of muders of innocent people that the Russian communist/bolshevik dictatorship had done. Communish/bolshevism had Jewish roots. To deny this is to deny that the Sun rises in the East. When will the Jews come to grips with the evil they are responsible? I have no trust in a Jew who is ignorant of this truth.

    September 24, 2010 at 6:48 am |
    • Nonimus

      This sounds absolutely ridiculous. Besides Jews being in the minority during the Bolshevik revolution, they were later persecuted and many killed outright by the communist party/system.
      Even if true, however, that would be no justification whatsoever for what Nazi Germany did to the Jews. Any attempt to justify that atrocity is abhorrent and beneath contempt.
      Please, read something other than Neo-Nazi propaganda. Please!

      September 24, 2010 at 12:47 pm |
  18. Bobby

    When you read about the History of the Middle-East you should take into account the First civilization the Sumerians.. Much of Genesis comes from the earlier Sumerian writings.. There is much going on in the Mid-East below the surface.. Call me crazy, but it all makes more sense to me after reading about Annunaki vs creationism or evolution.. Just my opinion..

    September 24, 2010 at 6:37 am |
  19. sak61

    Nice first step by the Imam.

    To those who excuse Islamic Antisemitism on the grounds of the plight of the Palestinians, please read your history. Jews were in control of the area known as Israel LONG before Islam. Israel has carved out a portion of what was their historic territory. Trans-Jordan was to be the home for those now referred to as Palestinians, but they did not want that. They also bought the land at often wildly inflated prices before Israel came into existence in the 20th century as they bought on the hopes of finally having a state.

    September 24, 2010 at 4:05 am |
  20. Justina

    Everyone should care about the plight of Non-Muslims in the Muslim-majority areas because they are the ones who are like Jews under the Nazi regime, not the Muslims in the free West.

    September 24, 2010 at 3:41 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.