Muslim World League head to visit Auschwitz

The trip follows the signing of an agreement with the American Jewish Committee in New York

Conscience Foundation President and Founder Rabbi Arthur Schneier (R) and Muslim World League Secretary General Mohammad Abdulkarim Al-Issa speak during an event before signing an agreement calling for the 'protection of religious sites across the world' on April 29, 2019 in the Park East Synagogue in New York City.   / AFP / Johannes EISELE
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The head of the Muslim World League, Dr Mohammad Al Issa, will become the most senior Islamic leader to visit Auschwitz under an agreement signed with the American Jewish Committee on Tuesday in New York.

The trip, in January next year, will coincide with the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.

After global terrorist attacks on Islamic, Christian and Jewish faithful, the organisations aim “to further Muslim-Jewish understanding” and show commitment to “co-operate against racism and extremism in all its forms”, a joint statement said.

“By paying my respects to the victims of Auschwitz, I will encourage Muslims and non-Muslims to embrace mutual respect, understanding and diversity,” Dr Al Issa said.

“The heinous attacks in Pittsburgh, in New Zealand, in Sri Lanka and just this weekend near San Diego compel us all to unite and stand up against those who want to divide us.”

Dr Al Issa, secretary general of the league and a former Saudi justice minister, will be joined on the trip to Poland by David Harris, chief executive of the American Jewish Committee.

“The launch of co-operative projects and Dr Al Issa's visit to Auschwitz is a direct rebuttal to the extremists who threaten us all,” Mr Harris said.

“By educating people on the horrors of history, we can plant the seeds for a future where Jews, Muslims and all other groups can live free of fear."

Mr Harris has accepted a reciprocal invitation to lead a group from the AJC on a visit to Saudi Arabia, where the MWL is based, in Makkah.

“We look forward to returning to Saudi Arabia, which AJC first visited 25 years ago, to learn more about current efforts to launch interfaith initiatives,” he said.

As part of the agreement, Dr Al Issa is also scheduled to address the AJC Global Forum in Berlin in June 2020.

On Monday, he visited the Park East Synagogue in New York, meeting Rabbi Arthur Schneier, and later held talks with Timothy Cardinal Dolan, the Roman Catholic Church's archbishop in the city.