In a bid to fight anti-Semitism and bridge cultural rifts, a large delegation of Muslim dignitaries visited Auschwitz on Tuesday to pay tribute to the millions of Jews and others who were systematically killed in the Holocaust.
The group of some 150 people included representatives from Morocco, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq, as well as rabbis and Christian representatives.
The mission organized by UNESCO, Paris City Hall and a new anti-racism group comes at a time when some in the West voice unease over Islam's growing clout in the underbelly of their communities and also Holocaust denials by political leaders such as Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
It also comes amid the recent upheaval that toppled a regime in Tunisia and which is threatening the regime of Egypt's longtime president, Hosni Mubarak, with whom Israel has painstakingly built strong ties.
Eight Holocaust survivors, as well as academics and representatives of governments from around the world filled out the contingent.
Anne-Marie Revcolevschi, head of the Aladdin Project, which organized the trip, said it was important to have the Arab representatives (Iranian's being non-Arabs, did she mean, to have representatives from Islamic countries?) on hand.
The reason is clear, she said. Because it's primarily from some of these countries where the speeches and documents that trade in Holocaust denial, hatred and anti-Semitism come from.
She noted the participation of Karim Lahidji, the head of the Iranian League of Human Rights and a former top lawyer in Tehran, saying no one will miss out on how his presence is important.
The Paris-based Aladdin Project was created two years ago to raise awareness about the Holocaust and to fight racism, Islamophobia and intolerance. Its website offers primers about Judaism for non-Jews and about Islam for non-Muslims, and highlights the historic ties between their communities.
Envoys from Egypt, Tunisia, Iran and Algeria had to cancel for various reasons, including the current political upheaval in the Mideast.
The visit comes after last Thursday's commemoration of the 66th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, Nazi Germany's most notorious death camp built in occupied Poland where 1.1 million Jews, Gypsies and others were murdered.
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