Holocaust a crime against all humanity, says MWL chief

Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdul Karim Al-Issa, head of the Muslim World League (MWL), visiting the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. (Courtesy MWL)
Updated 28 January 2019

Holocaust a crime against all humanity, says MWL chief

  • The head of the Muslim World League explains why Muslims, too, must never forget the Holocaust
  • "He who denies the Holocaust seeks to repeat it."— AL-Issa

JEDDAH/DUBAI: For decades after they marched into the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp in Poland on Jan. 27, 1945, Soviet soldiers had nightmares about what they found.

They liberated more than 7,000 prisoners, most of them ill and dying, but by then the Nazis had already murdered 1.3 million people in that camp alone — and 17 million in total, of whom 6 million were Jews. Yet to this day, there are those who deny that the Holocaust happened. Now, in a powerful intervention on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, one of the world’s leading Muslim thinkers has spoken of how corrosive that denial is.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdul Karim Al-Issa, secretary-general of the Muslim World League (MWL), told Arab News that Muslims must unite to entrench the memory of the Holocaust’s victims. 

He denounced those who deny the Holocaust, saying this serves to drive new hate-fuelled ideologies and antisemitism. 

The MWL “and the Islamic peoples under it denounce all the killing of innocents and the violation of the inviolability of the Holocaust,” he said. “The followers of the Jewish religion… have a distinctive position in Islam with the Christians. We and they are descendants of Abraham and believe in one God,” he added.

“He who denies the Holocaust seeks to repeat it... Rational human beings must unite and work together to restrain the advocates of murder and extermination, otherwise the lessons of history won’t be useful.”




Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, Berlin. Shutterstock

Al-Issa, who is also president of the Makkah-based International Organization of Muslim Scholars, spoke to Arab News following a widely circulated article in the Washington Post, in which he said denying the Holocaust “has only helped those who continue to perpetuate hateful ideas of racial, ethnic or religious purity, such as the genocidal killers of the Rohingya people in Myanmar.”

He added: “For decades… some have chosen not to see what really happened wherever the Nazis and their henchmen wielded power. Instead, they deny the horrors of a diabolical plan to implement a hateful idea of racial purity that ultimately led to the murder of millions of innocent men, women and children — including 6 million Jews.” He said: “The lessons of the Holocaust are universal, and Muslims around the world have a responsibility to learn them, heed the warnings and join the international commitment to ensure ‘never again’.”

Last year, Al-Issa wrote an open letter to Sara Bloomfield, director of the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, saying “true Islam” classifies the crimes of the Holocaust “in the highest degree of penal sanctions and among the worst human atrocities ever. One would ask, who in his right mind would accept, sympathize, or even diminish the extent of this brutal crime?” He said: “I received a flood of calls, text messages, emails and letters from Muslim religious scholars endorsing the view I’d expressed. Not a single reputable scholar has stood up to oppose this view. None could dispute the indisputable.”

It led to Al-Issa’s visit last May to the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, which he describes as “one of the most powerful and moving experiences of my life.”

He has urged all Muslims to learn the history of the Holocaust and to teach its lessons to their children. 

“As adherents to a faith committed to tolerance, coexistence and respect for the dignity of all mankind, we share a responsibility to confront those who would carry Adolf Hitler’s torch today, and to join hands with people of goodwill of all nations and faiths to prevent genocide wherever it threatens innocent lives,” he said.

“We can only do this if we’re armed with the truth. We Muslims share the sentiment expressed by (Holocaust survivor) Elie Wiesel in the words engraved… on the walls of the Holocaust Museum: ‘For the dead and the living, we must bear witness.’ As the Holy Qur’an commands, ‘O you, who believe, be upright for God and be bearers of witness with justice’.”




Liberated prisoners of Wobbelin concentration camp taken to hospital. (Shutterstock)

Andy Hollinger, the museum’s director of communications, told Arab News: “The museum believes the Holocaust holds lessons for all peoples. It shows the lasting dangers of hatred and antisemitism. It teaches us about the immutability of human nature and how we’re all susceptible to these threats.” He said: “We remember the Holocaust not just to honor the dead, although that’s important, but to ask ourselves how such an event could’ve occurred, and what responsibilities we have to ensure we don’t repeat the failings of the past.” Yet more than seven decades later, a disturbing level of Holocaust denial remains. According to a survey released last week by Opinion Matters for the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust (HMDT), 5 percent of UK adults do not believe that the Holocaust took place, and one in 12 believes its scale has been exaggerated. 

The poll of more than 2,000 people also found that almost two-thirds of respondents could not say how many Jews were murdered, or “grossly” underestimated the number. 

The HMDT’s chief executive, Olivia Marks-Woldman, said: “Such widespread ignorance and even denial is shocking. Without a basic understanding of this recent history, we are in danger of failing to learn where a lack of respect for difference and hostility to others can ultimately lead.”

A poll carried out in the US last year by Schoen Consulting found that 11 percent of American adults and 22 percent of millennials had not heard of the Holocaust, and almost a third of Americans and four out of 10 millennials believed that 2 million Jews or fewer were killed. Nearly half the adults and millennials could not name a single Nazi concentration camp, while about four-fifths of Americans had never visited a Holocaust museum.

The survey’s authors said people who lack basic knowledge about the Holocaust are susceptible to cynical campaigns by neo-Nazis and xenophobic nationalists and regimes such as Iran’s, which often use social media to deny the Holocaust or mock its victims.

In 2016, the Iranian regime played an active role in denying the Holocaust, exhibiting more than 150 cartoons that denied or mocked it at the state-run Islamic Propaganda Organization in Tehran. The organization then sponsored exhibits of cartoons in provincial capitals across Iran.




Gates to Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, Poland. (Shutterstock)

At the time, Tad Stahnke, director of the US Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Initiative on Holocaust Denial and Antisemitism, said the Iranian state had a “long-standing pattern of promulgating Holocaust denial on a global stage, which incites violence, promotes hatred, and stokes antisemitism.” 

Karen Pollock, chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, spoke out last week against those who deny the Holocaust. “One person questioning the truth of the Holocaust is one too many,” she said. “It is up to us to redouble our efforts to ensure future generations know that it did happen and become witnesses to one of the darkest episodes in our history.” 

On Sunday, survivors, politicians and members of the public worldwide delivered messages of remembrance to the Holocaust’s victims, with Pope Francis tweeting: “Let us not forget the victims of the Holocaust. Their unspeakable suffering continues to cry out to humanity.” 

British Prime Minister Theresa May wrote last week in the Book of Commitment at the Holocaust Educational Trust in her country: “No words can ever do justice to the six million who were so cruelly murdered in the Holocaust but we can pay a fitting tribute through our deeds today. In a world where hatred of others is becoming increasingly commonplace, we can choose to stand as one against those who peddle it.” She added: “At a time when Jews are being targeted simply because of who they are, all of us of any faith can come together in their defence… We can once again commit ourselves to remembering those who were murdered, and to ensure that such a human catastrophe is never permitted to happen again.”

The theme of this year’s International Holocaust Remembrance Day is “Demand and Defend Your Human Rights.” It aims to encourage young people to learn from the lessons of the Holocaust, act against discrimination and defend democratic values in their communities, at a time when the spread of neo-Nazism and hate groups is fueling antisemitism and other forms of hatred worldwide.


Why the UN is struggling to function

Antonio Guterres, UN secretary-general, called the budget shortfall “the worst cash crisis facing the UN in nearly a decade,” jeopardizing, among other things, peacekeeping efforts and the management of the UN’s New York headquarters. (Ray Hanania)
Updated 3 min 41 sec ago

Why the UN is struggling to function

  • World body facing 'the worst cash crisis' in nearly a decade due to mounting arrears
  • Crisis is marked by lack of cash to pay staff and vendors or to fund critical programs

NEW YORK CITY: The UN is facing its worst liquidity shortfall in 74 years of operation with a deficit of $1.385 billion, which is making it difficult for the world body to pay staff and vendors or fund missions.
The crisis has forced Antonio Guterres, the UN secretary-general, to begin cutbacks in all operations.
Warning on Oct. 8 that the problems are at a “tipping point,” he called it “the worst cash crisis facing the UN in nearly a decade,” jeopardizing peacekeeping efforts in Yemen, Myanmar and the management of the UN’s New York headquarters, offices in Geneva, Vienna and Nairobi, and investigative commissions in Bangkok, Addis Ababa, Santiago and Beirut.
A UN budget review presented this week showed that the crisis is being driven by the lack of cash to pay staff and vendors or to fund critical programs, and outlined spending cuts that will begin immediately pending a resolution of the situation.
“The cash deficits occur earlier in the year, linger longer and run deeper,” said Catherine Pollard, UN under-secretary-general for management strategy, policy and compliance.
“For the second successive year, we have exhausted all regular budget liquidity reserves, despite several measures we had taken to reduce expenditures to align them with available liquidity.”
Chandramouli Ramanathan, UN's controller, detailed the debt in a presentation with Pollard on Oct. 11 that identified $1.385 billion in debts, more than half of the UN’s 2019 annual budget of $2.85 billion.
Ramanathan said that only $1.99 billion had been collected this year, including past year arrears.
“If the trend continues … you will pretty much see that at some point we are running out of liquidity so often — everything depends on the liquidity if the liquidity runs down, we have to prioritize the payment,” he said.
“It will come to the point where you will not have enough staff or not have enough to pay the vendors.”
Ramanathan said that 75 percent of the UN’s budget is for employee and building costs. The remainder includes air charters, fuel, rations, IT support and political missions, which he said are all in jeopardy.
This does not include the costs of peacekeeping missions, nearly $8 billion for 2019, but which are nearly $3.7 billion in arrears.
A slew of operating spending cuts at the UN began on Oct. 14, ranging from no new hirings or filling of vacant positions to switching off heating and airconditioning.
Ramanathan said that these were emergency steps but warned failure to address the “liquidity crisis” would result in other more serious cutbacks including funding of operations, missions and more.

UN OPERATING SPENDING CUTS

• No new hirings or filling of vacant positions

• Reducing operating hours of UN facilities including the New York City headquarters

• Suspending release of new documents, studies and translation of documents

• Curtailing travel of UN officials, meetings or publicly scheduled receptions

• Cutting back operations at the UN headquarters and its worldwide centers, including turning off the use of electricity for certain building operations such as escalators, and shutting down the UN’s fountains

• Heating and air conditioning to be turned off at 6 p.m. each day and not turned on until 8 a.m. at UN buildings

“We are trying to cut back on non-salaried costs, operating hours to meet obligations and to vendors,” he said.
Ramanathan said that the UN was prohibited by its charter from borrowing money. He acknowledged that traditionally member countries were late in paying, usually until the last half of the year or last quarter, but the late payments had become “later and later” each year.
“The US is the largest contributor and they have a large outstanding amount … the US has a large amount outstanding,” Ramanathan said, noting that the UN does single out and list specific debts or debtors.
“We are in active engagement with all the states that owe large amounts.”
Ramanathan identified seven member nations that had failed to pay their memberships fully and accounted for 97 percent of the debt owed: the US ($1.06 billion), Brazil ($143 million), Argentina ($51.5 million), Mexico ($36 million), Iran ($26.9 million), Israel ($17.7 million) and Venezuela ($17.2 million).
He said that a total of 65 other countries were in arrears for their annual dues, based on country size and per capita income, but that represented less than 3 percent of the operating budget shortfall. Only 128 members were fully paid up for this year.
According to Ramanathan, the US owes its annual membership dues of $674 million for 2019, and $381 million for previous years.
UN officials declined to comment on reports that Guterres is seeking to address the unpaid US monies in a meeting with US President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly criticized the UN and the US financial obligations.
But an independent report by UN Dispatch, which is funded by the UN Foundation, reported on Dec. 6, 2016, that the UN’s headquarters generated $3.69 billion in benefits to New York City’s economy through jobs, commerce, hotels and retail spending by delegates and their staff.
One example of the costs includes accommodating the more than 1,500 journalists, delegates and support staff at the opening of the UN’s 74th General Assembly in New York City on Sept. 23.

The cash deficits occur earlier in the year, linger longer and run deeper.

Catherine Pollard, UN under-secretary-general for management strategy, policy and compliance

The UN erected a huge outdoor media tent in its grounds to accommodate journalists, providing access to the internet, electrical outlets, video and audio feeds, tables and work stations.
But these journalists, staff and delegates also brought with them revenue for the host city — filling hotels and restaurants, and generating profits for retailers, cabs and other businesses.
Despite the financial benefits New York City reaps from the UN headquarters presence, and the power the US wields at the UN, Trump brushed aside reports of the budget crisis or his nation’s failure to pay its share of the UN costs during his address on Sept. 24 to the UN General Assembly.
And a week later, Trump tweeted in response to UN officials’ budget concerns: “So make all Member Countries pay, not just the United States!”
The UN could suspend the voting of any nation that fails to pay its dues under Article 19 of the UN Charter, which states: “A Member of the United Nations which is in arrears in the payment of its financial contributions to the Organization shall have no vote in the General Assembly if the amount of its arrears equals or exceeds the amount of the contributions due from it for the preceding two full years. The General Assembly may, nevertheless, permit such a Member to vote if it is satisfied that the failure to pay is due to conditions beyond the control of the Member.” (Article 19 of the Charter of the United Nations)
A UN staff member said that it was unlikely that the UN would implement the rule against the US and that they fully expected the US “to pay at least part of what it owes” before the end of the year.
The UN was created in 1945 with the goal of ending human-rights abuses.
The power of the UN rests with the 15-member Security Council, which the US is a member of and controls through its veto to block any policies or resolutions it opposes.
The UN General Assembly includes 193 nations, serving as a platform for advocacy and action.