WASHINGTON (JTA) – A Saudi-based Muslim group rejected Holocaust denial in a letter to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.
“History is indeed impartial no matter how hard forgers tried to tamper with or manipulate it,” said the letter sent Jan. 22 to the museum by Mohammad Al Issa, the secretary general of the Muslim World League, five days before International Holocaust Remembrance Day. “Hence, we consider any denial of the Holocaust or minimizing of its effect a crime to distort history and an insult to the dignity of those innocent souls who have perished. It is also an affront to us all since we share the same human soul and spiritual bonds.”
The letter was posted Thursday on the site of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Al Issa suggested the letter was prompted in part by his friendship with the think tank’s director, Robert Satloff, who has written extensively about North African Muslims who protected Jews during the Holocaust.
Writing separately, Satloff described meeting Al Issa last month when he led a delegation of lay leaders of his think tank to Saudi Arabia. A former justice minister, Al Issa had taken over the Saudi-funded Muslim World League in 2016. Satloff wrote that the league had been a linchpin in propagating “a radical, hate-filled, anti-West, anti-Semitic version of Islam.” Al Issa expressed a willingness to visit the Holocaust museum the next time he was in Washington.
The appointment of Al Issa appears to be of a piece with Saudi Arabia’s pivot westward under its new crown prince, Muhammad bin Sultan, Satloff said.
“Taking his lead from Muhammad bin Salman, the current crown prince who has vowed to cleanse his country of extremism and return it to ‘moderate Islam,’ Al Issa seems to have a specific mandate to transform the MWL from an organization synonymous with extremism to one that preaches tolerance,” he said.
Al Issa did not specify Jews as victims of the Holocaust in his letter to the museum director, Sara Bloomfield, but instead spoke of “this human tragedy perpetrated by evil Nazism” and “our great sympathy with the victims of the Holocaust, an incident that shook humanity to the core, and created an event whose horrors could not be denied or underrated by any fair-minded or peace-loving person.”
The Muslim World League, which was founded in 1962, is funded principally by Saudi Arabia’s government. President Donald Trump, visiting Saudi Arabia in June, encouraged it and other Sunni Arab countries to combat radical Islam.
Holocaust denial has proliferated for decades in the Arab and Muslim worlds, sometimes encouraged by official government bodies, including in the past by Saudi Arabia. President Barack Obama in his 2009 speech to the Muslim world delivered in Cairo said the perpetuation of Holocaust denial was an obstruction to better relations with the West.