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memri
October 26, 2011 No.
4227

Following a Tour of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, Saudi-Born Liberal Mansour Al-Hadj Describes Early Education in Saudi Arabia: 'We Didn't Learn that the Holocaust Was a Crime; Instead, We learned the Muslims Are Destined to Kill the Jews at the End of Days'

In an article published October 24 on the reformist website Aafaq, liberal journalist and writer Mansour Al-Hadj writes about the skewed picture of the Holocaust he received as a child growing up in Saudi Arabia, mainly due to the school curricula which failed to present this event as an atrocity, and which encouraged – and in fact still encourages – enmity against the Jews and other non-Muslims. Describing the eye-opening experience he had when he visited the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.; he concludes that everyone has a responsibility to teach his children about this dreadful period in history, and about other crimes of extermination that are a disgrace to the human race, in order to build a better future based on tolerance, understanding, and respect among all human beings.

The following are excerpts from the article:

As a Child in the Saudi Arab Kingdom... The Word ['Jew'] Was Associated in My Mind with Negative Qualities like Deceit, Enmity, Racism [and] Miserliness..."

"As a child in the Saudi Arab kingdom, I often heard about the Holocaust that befell the Jews at the hands of the Nazi regime in Germany during World War II. However, most of what I heard was that the Jews exaggerated the number of victims, that they used the Holocaust to arouse the world's pity, and that they indisputably deserved their fate. I never learned that the Holocaust was among the most atrocious crimes in human history, and I did not read that persecuting [the Jews] based on their religion is considered religious discrimination. I did not feel any empathy toward the victims of the Holocaust, despite the atrocious things that happened to them, only because they were Jews. The word ['Jew'] was associated in my mind with negative qualities like deceit, enmity, racism, miserliness, and going back on one's word. [I knew] they were prophet-killers whom Allah had cursed and turned into apes and pigs, and that we are destined to kill them in the battle to come – in which, according to a prophecy by Muhammad, even the trees and stones will fight alongside the Muslims, and whenever a Jew hides behind them, the stones and trees will say: 'O Muslim, o servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him!' The well-known cleric and head of the International Union of Muslim Scholars, Yousef Al-Qaradhawi, referred to this [final battle] when he praised what Hitler did to the Jews and described it as 'divine punishment.' He stressed that the Muslims would [ultimately] do to the Jews exactly what Hitler did, saying: 'Allah willing, the next time [this happens, it] will be at the hand of the believers.'[1]

"As I grew up my feelings didn't change much: [I felt] indifference, played down the horror of the events, and believed that the Jews had gotten what they deserved for their corruption and arrogance. [This continued] until I visited the Holocaust museum in the American capital of Washington, and had the honor of meeting one of [the senior museum staff], who took me on a tour of the museum and gave me detailed explanations about the Holocaust. [Then] for the first time I realized my deep ignorance regarding the horror of the Holocaust and what happened to the Jews, who were ordinary citizens with equal rights, living normal lives, until the Nazis came to power.

"Wandering through the hallways of the museum, I remembered a class I sat through in junior high, about the extermination of the Jewish [tribe] of Banu Qurayza.[2] One of the Prophet Muhammad's companions, Sa'd bin Mu'adh, ordered to kill the men, capture the women, and seize the Jews' money – and the Messenger supported this ruling, describing it as Allah's ruling regarding [the Banu Qurayza]. At the time, we [pupils] did not object, protest, or ask why an entire tribe had to be exterminated for the misconduct of some of its members. We did not at all feel that this was an unjust ruling."

A 12th Grade Saudi Textbook Emphasizes that the Conflict between the Jews and the Muslims is Inevitable and Insoluble

"[Our attitude] can be explained by the fact that the authors of the Saudi curricula intentionally neglected [to teach us] that Hitler's incineration of the Jews is considered a crime. [After all], in principle, there is no difference between what the Messenger of Islam did to the Banu Qurayza tribe and what the Muslims are planning to do to the Jews at the End of Days, in [that final] battle they await. It can also be explained by the fact that Saudi Arabia repeatedly refuses the demand of the American State Department to include the Holocaust in its curricula, which continues to incite to violence and hatred against non-Muslims in general and the Jews in particular. [For example,] the 12th grade textbook Studies on the Islamic World (2006-2007 edition) emphasizes that the conflict between the Jews and the Muslims is inevitable and insoluble. The book reads: 'Whoever studies the nature of the conflict between the Muslims and the Jews understands an important fact: this is a religious conflict, not a dispute about politics, or nationality, or a conflict between races or tribes, or a fight over land or country, as some describe it. This is a deeply rooted enmity, a conflict between truth and falsehood, between monotheism and polytheism, between heresy and faith. The enmity between us and the Jews will under no circumstances cease until one of two things [happens]: either they join our religion and become Muslims, or we abandon our religion, God forbid... Once we realize the essence of this conflict, and that this enmity cannot cease, we understand how much those who say the conflict can be settled are misleading [us]. (p. 91)'"

The Saudis Disseminate Their Curriculum throughout the World

"This is part of what I learned and what is learned by all Muslims who come to Saudi Arabia from around the world. And what is more, the kingdom also exports these ideas throughout the globe, exploiting its status as a religious center and the home of the Two Holy Places [Mecca and Medina], as well as its great material capabilities and the ignorance of the Muslim peoples. It builds schools, providing them with its own curricula and teachers, and grants scholarships to thousands of Muslim [youths] to study shari'a and Islamic studies – but not other subjects – at Saudi universities; and when they return to their home countries, it employs them at the Saudi Islamic organizations there...

"At the entrance [to the Holocaust Museum] are hundreds of little booklets, each giving details about a Jewish man or woman from among the victims of the Holocaust, who were citizens like any other Europeans – people who learned and worked and planted and played. Some were religious and others were not...

"[My guide] explained that the Nazi party wanted to overcome the Germans' sense of frustration over their defeat in World War I, and to restore them to splendor and power; to this end it launched propaganda in favor of the racial purity of the Aryan race and expelling all other races.

"What amazed me more than anything is that German society became so hostile to the Jews, with people informing on their Jewish neighbors, just three years after the Nazis rose to power."

The Nazis' Banning of the Jews from Various Professions Reminded Me of Saudi Arabia's "Saudization" Program

"I could not imagine how the German people cooperated with the [Nazi] authorities in discriminating between Jews and non-Jews. [My guide] told me that the economic situation played a part in this, and that after the Nazi party barred the Jews from working in many professions – such as law, medicine, and education…

This reminded me of the policy of 'Saudization,' which the Saudi authorities are encouraging in the kingdom as a means to solve the unemployment problem, and from the depiction of foreigners as if they are plundering all the good of the land and are the cause of unemployment – [an attitude] that has led to a growing phenomenon of hatred of foreigners, especially among the unemployed youth.

"The Germans' ingenuity and their precision in labor, documentation, and classification helped preserve all the atrocious deeds the Nazi regime committed. I was amazed when I saw the mechanisms devised especially to record the number, class, dimensions, weight, age, and illnesses of the Jews. I was also amazed to learn that the regime forced the Jews to put special signs on their arms and chests to distinguish them from their fellowman, and that they cast them into special neighborhoods. In one picture, I noticed that the ghetto to which the Jews were transferred was located on the road leading into town, with passersby [able to] see the Jews day in and day out in this miserable condition. Immediately, I recalled that the second Caliph, 'Omar bin Al-Khattab, also forced the Jews to wear particular garb in order to distinguish them from the Muslims.

"The Nazi regime committed a great many atrocious deeds and conducted medical experiments on Jews as well as sterilized racially mixed children.

"In the museum, I also saw a model of the concentration camps to which the Jews were sent in preparation for their extermination, and model of the gas chambers... But what remains etched in my memory is the photos showing of thousands of Jews of various ages, residents of one village, in their best clothes, as they were before the Holocaust: a young man and his beloved, a family of father, mother, and brothers, a grandfather and grandmother, people in work clothes, a doctor, a soldier, a factory worker, a teacher, a carpenter, a blacksmith...

"At the end of the tour, I saw pictures and names of European heroes who risked their lives in order to save the lives of Jews, sheltering them in their homes and providing them with food and clothing.

"From my visit to the museum, I learned that what happened to the Jews was a human tragedy in the full sense of the word, and that it is a grave mistake to deny it, to downplay its horror, or to justify it, and that all people must work together so that it will never happen again to any nation in the world. We are all, human beings, and we bear a responsibility to teach our children about the Holocaust, as well as other crimes of extermination that are a dishonor to the human race. We have to encourage our children to work for a better future in which tolerance, mutual understanding, and respect will prevail among all human beings, regardless of race, color, religion, or belief."

Endnotes:

[1] See MEMRI TV Clip No. 2005, "Sheik Yousuf Al-Qaradhawi: Allah Imposed Hitler upon the Jews to Punish Them - "Allah Willing, the Next Time Will Be at the Hand of the Believers," January 28-30, 2009, http://www.memri.org/legacy/clip/2005.

[2] A Jewish tribe that lived in the Arabian Peninsula in the 7th century. Members of the tribe were expelled or killed by the Muslim forces.