Senior Saudi religious leader Sheikh Mohammed al-Issa, secretary general of the Mecca-based Muslim World League, brought a delegation of Muslim leaders to visit the Auschwitz death camp on Thursday to mark the 75th anniversary of its liberation.
Al-Issa and American Jewish Committee chairman David Harris signed a memorandum of understanding in April 2019, which enshrined "the commitment of the two global institutions to further Muslim-Jewish understanding and cooperate against racism and extremism in all its forms,” according to an AJC statement.
Al-Issa also has accepted an invitation from Harris to address the AJC Global Forum in Berlin in June 2020. Harris, in turn, will lead an AJC delegation to Saudi Arabia.
“I believe that by paying my respects to the victims of Auschwitz, I will encourage Muslims and non-Muslims to embrace mutual respect, understanding and diversity,” Al-Issa, a widely recognized thought leader on moderate Islam, said in the statement. “The heinous attacks in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in Christchurch, New Zealand, and most recently in Sri Lanka compel us all to unite and stand up against those who want to divide us,” he also said.
A former justice minister, al-Issa has also held a number of senior positions in the religious and legal system in Saudi Arabia, and is considered a close associate of Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman. In recent years, he has been closely involved in the Kingdom's ecumenical attempts, meeting with senior figures in Christianity and Judaism.
In 2017, al-Issa visited the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and declared Holocaust denial a crime against Islam. He expressed his belief that Holocaust denial helps those who embrace hatred and ethnic cleansing all over the world, pointing out that it legitimizes abuses againts Muslims - like in Myanmar.
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