A former Saudi justice minister will be leading a high-level delegation of Islamic scholars to visit the site of Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland the Times of Israel has reported. The group will also go to the site of the genocide at Srebrenica in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Sheikh Mohammed Bin Abdul Karim Al-Issa, who is the secretary-general of the Makkah-based Muslim World League, will accompany a delegation of American Jewish Committee (AJC) officials on Thursday to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz by the Soviet Red Army. The visit is a result of the memorandum signed by the Muslim World League and the AJC last year.
Al-Issa told Arab News that Muslims from various sects must unite to entrench the memory of the Holocaust's victims. He denounced those who deny the Holocaust, saying that such a view serves to drive new hate-fuelled ideologies and anti-Semitism.
The CEO of the AJC, David Harris, described Al-Issa's visit to Auschwitz as highly significant, and emphasised that he believes it will enhance Muslim understanding of the Holocaust. "This trip will be ground-breaking," he told the Times of Israel. "That is no exaggeration."
The group of Muslim scholars and AJC officials will also visit Warsaw, where they will tour the Museum of the History of Polish Jews and the Nozyk Synagogue in the Polish capital, as well as a local mosque. It was reported that they will also share an interfaith Shabbat meal.
In 2018, Al-Issa visited the US Holocaust Memorial Museum and declared that Holocaust denial is a crime against Islam. In a subsequent opinion piece that he wrote for the Washington Post, he said, "I urge all Muslims to learn the history of the Holocaust, to visit memorials and museums of this horrific event and to teach its lesson to their children."
The author Joel C. Rosenberg, an Evangelical Christian, told the Times of Israel that Al-Issa is in the "close orbit" of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman and that Riyadh almost certainly gave its blessing for the Saudi scholar to make the trip to Auschwitz. "He definitely would not be making this visit if the crown prince did not want him to do so," he added.
This year not only marks the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz extermination camp, where more than one million Jews were murdered by the Nazis, but also the 25th anniversary of the Serbian genocide of Bosnians in Srebrenica. Almost 9,000 Bosnian Muslims, mainly men and boys, were killed by the Serbs there in July 1995.