WARSAW -- Accepting an unusual invitation from the Polish government, prominent Muslim clergy, scholars and activists from around the world are heading to Poland to learn about the experience of the country's Jewish population before the Second World War and under the Nazi occupation. They will be accompanied by a number of Jewish activists from the United States and three official representatives of the U.S. State Department in Washington.
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The 21 visitors, who are covering some of the expense out of pocket, will arrive in Poland on May 24 and will spend four days in the country.
The itinerary includes the sites of the former ghettos in Warsaw and Krakow, the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum, Schindler’s factory immortalized in Steven Spielberg’s famous film, and a number of other sites connected to Jewish life during the Holocaust. They will also meet heads of the Polish Foreign Ministry, dine as guests of Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich and converse with Roman Catholic Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, formerly the personal secretary of Pope John Paul II, who famously called the Jews “our elder brothers.”
Muslims often have distorted information about the Jewish people, says project coordinator Marshall Breger, a law professor at the Catholic University in Washington, D.C., which mostly comes from anti-Semitic propaganda in Arab countries and “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” the infamous literary hoax.
Emphasis will be placed on meetings between the Muslim leaders and Holocaust survivors as well as righteous Polish gentiles who helped save Jews during the war. There will also be a symposium on “The language of hatred and how to prevent it.”
Among those planning to attend are Barakat Fawzi Hasan of Al Quds University in East Jerusalem, Mohammad Rayyan of the Shariah faculty at the University of Jordan in Amman, Imam Abdul Rahman Ebdah, Secretary General of Preaching and Guidance in Jordan and Majed A. Eshki of King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah, along with scholars and clergy from Niger, the United States, Morocco, Turkey and Indonesia.