Holocaust Remembrance Day is being celebrated throughout the world due to an ongoing United Nations resolution, but Saudi Arabia's participation is being noted in world news as surprising.
According to the Washington Institute website, Muhammad Al Issa, also known as Muhammad bin Abdul Karim Issa, secretary general of the Muslim World League based in Saudi Arabia, wrote a letter that responded to the United Nations Holocaust Remembrance Day.
The goal of the United Nations Holocaust Remembrance Day was first celebrated globally on January 27, 2006, to educate future generations to "help prevent future acts of genocide."
According to Newsweek, Muhammad Al Issa wrote the following statement in his 2018 letter concerning Holocaust Remembrance Day on behalf of the Muslim World League.
"True Islam is against these crimes. It classifies them 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?"Previously, Saudi Arabia has been noted as a country where antisemitism and Holocaust denial are "rampant," according to Chris Meserole, a Brookings Institute Middle East expert. Meserole also stated the following about Muhammad Al Issa's Holocaust Remembrance Day letter.
"By publishing a letter that condemns the Holocaust outright, with no caveats, Dr. Issa has taken a bold step toward improving Muslim-Jewish relations. The issue now is whether the Saudis will couple their words with action."As far as turning words to action, in the months before penning his letter about Holocaust Remembrance Day, Muhammad Al Issa was talking to Reuters about "wiping out" extremism or related ideologies, and it appears antisemitism is one of them.
For example, during his interview with Reuters in late 2017 in Paris, France, Muhammad Al Issa visited Paris' Grand Synagogue as well as the Notre Dame Cathedral to talk to religious officials. About his reasons for speaking with synagogue and church officials, Muhammad Al Issa stated the following:
"We have a common objective to end hatred. The Muslim World League really believes that we can accomplish that, and religions are very influential in doing that."Despite the fact that some news headlines were surprised Muhammad Al Issa penned a letter about Holocaust Remembrance Day, there have been several headlines in the recent past concerning Arabs that protected Jewish people during the Holocaust.
For example, in 2017, an Arab savior, Mohamed Helmy, was one of the first Muslims recognized by Israel as having protected families or individuals during the Holocaust. Altogether, BBC noted that there were at least 70 Holocaust saviors of Muslim or Arab descent on record recognized by Israel.
Adding to this, in 2011, an opinion piece in the NY Times by Eva Weisel stated there were at least 23,000 non-Jews that protected Jewish people during the Holocaust, and many of them are included in "The Righteous Among the Nations" by Yad Vashem, the official Holocaust memorial museum in Israel.
Regardless, Eva Weisel points out that the person that saved her and her family from 1942 until the end of World War II was an Arab Muslim named Khaled Abdul Wahab -- but he was rejected by the Department of the Righteous, and not included in the Righteous Among the Nations. About his absence from Yad Vashem's list of honorees, Eva Weisel wrote the following.
"Our family's rescuer deserves to be among that number. And in his case, the impact of recognition would have powerful reverberations, striking a blow against Holocaust denial in a part of the world where such denial is widespread."