In what is being called a "bold step toward improving Muslim-Jewish relations," a Saudi religious leader has condemned Holocaust denial in a letter to the director of the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.
Dr. Mohammad Alissa, secretary general of the Muslim World League, penned the letter to mark the occasion of International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
While calling the killings of nearly 6 million Jews during World War II "among the worst human atrocities” ever committed, Alissa called out the act of negating the facts of the Nazi genocide of European Jewry.
“True Islam is against these crimes. It classifies them in the highest degree of penal sanctions and among the worst human atrocities ever,” Alissa wrote in his letter.
“This human tragedy perpetrated by evil Nazism won’t be forgotten by history, or meet the approval of anyone, except criminal Nazis or their genre. 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," he added.
Traditionally, anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial have been pervasive in ultraconservative Arab nations like Saudi Arabia.
In fact, just last year, Human Rights Watch released an analysis about Saudi Arabia’s school religious studies curriculum containing and disseminating content against Jews and Christians and other religions that do not adhere to its strict interpretation of Sunni Islam called Wahhabism.
In 2010, reports emerged about Saudi textbooks describing Jews as descending from monkeys and pigs.
Therefore, considering the aforementioned, the statement from a top Saudi religious authority like Alissa is indeed a sign of "improving" Muslim-Jewish relations,” Chris Meserole, a Middle East expert at the Brookings Institution, told Newsweek.
There is also wide speculation that this radical shift in views pertaining to the Holocaust could be related to the recent changes in the political dynamics of the Middle East.
Israel and Saudi Arabia have never had any diplomatic relations. In fact, Riyadh and its Gulf allies don't even recognize Israel as a state, owing to the Jewish state's intractable conflict with the Palestinian people. However, in order to combat the growing influence of a common regional rival, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Israel seem to be becoming de facto allies.
Thumbnail Credits: Reuters/Clotaire Achi