According to the Qur’an — which states, “Obey not the unbelievers and hypocrites, and strive against them a mighty jihad” — every Muslim is obligated to engage in jihad, or holy war. But what exactly does that entail? For ISIL and al-Qaeda, it very literally means taking up arms and waging war against those who do not believe in Islam. For most Muslims, however, it has almost the opposite meaning.
During the Second World War, Nazi Germany murdered six-million Jews and millions of other minorities they considered to be “inferior.” Hitler’s plan for world domination was twofold: expand the Third Reich’s borders and cleanse the new territory of its Jews and other undesirables. In most cases, the conquered countries readily acquiesced to Nazi demands to hand over their Jewish citizens for extermination.
As Jewish refugees began to disperse all over Europe, Albanians welcomed them with open arms
There were very few exceptions. The most notable one, however, was Albania, the only European country with a Muslim majority. Albania was a small country with a population of just over 800,000 prior to the war, which was home to a mere 200 Jews. When Hitler demanded lists of Jewish Albanians, not only did the government refuse to comply, but various governmental agencies worked to process fake identification papers to protect the Jewish population.
As Jewish refugees began to disperse all over Europe, Albanians welcomed them with open arms, competing with one another for the honour of feeding, clothing and housing the refugees. By the end of the war, the Jewish population had increased tenfold to nearly 2,000.
What motivated Albanians to risk their lives and endanger their own families to save Jews? The answer lies in a directive issued by Prime Minister Mehdi Frasheri: “All Jewish children will sleep with your children, all will eat the same food, all will live as one family.” Albanians held the deep-seated belief that despite our religious, cultural and ethnic differences, we are all one family of humankind. And the vast majority of good people of the human race must be prepared to stick their necks out for those persecuted by the tiny minority of evil human beings.
In 2011, the Canadian Parliament voted unanimously to establish a National Holocaust Monument in the capital. The purpose of the monument is to remember the victims of the Holocaust, acknowledge the contributions survivors have made to this country and demonstrate Canada’s eternal commitment to stand at the forefront of the battle against intolerance, prejudice and genocide around the world. Funding for the monument has been shared by the people of Canada and private donors. It promises to be a source of pride for our country, not only in its message, but in its awe-inspiring and memorable aesthetics, having been designed by one of the leading architectural design teams in the world, headed by Daniel Libeskind.
Why are Muslims donating to a monument that remembers Jews who were murdered by Nazis of Christian origin? Because we are all one family
On Nov. 30, history was made when the Coalition of Progressive Canadian Muslim Organizations presented a donation collected by its member groups to the National Holocaust Monument Development Council. Why are Muslims donating to a monument that remembers Jews who were murdered by Nazis of Christian origin? Because we are all one family. Those who perpetrate crimes against humanity in the name of God are an evil minority. The vast majority of Muslims, Christians, Jews and people of all faiths are united in the belief that we are all God’s children and that each of our religions preaches love and tolerance for all peoples.
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We are very blessed to live in Canada, a country that embodies these values. The National Holocaust Monument is a tangible testament to what we, as Canadians, stand for. We will forever be united and fearless as we stand up to the terrorists who wish to pervert the word of God. The Coalition of Progressive Canadian Muslim Organizations believes wholeheartedly in this important project. We look forward to taking our children and grandchildren to the monument to learn and appreciate our values. And we believe that a visit to the monument should be an integral part of the initiation process of all new immigrants to Canada. They need to see what it means to be Canadian.
Every Muslim is required to engage in jihad. This is our jihad. The partnership between Christians, Jews and Muslims in building institutions dedicated to combating intolerance is how we do battle with the tiny minority of evildoers who are corrupting God’s call to humankind. We pray that we will see the day when all peoples of the world can live together as brothers and sisters in peace and security.
Rabbi Daniel Friedman is the chair of the National Holocaust Monument Development Council of Canada. Salma Siddiqui is the president of the Coalition of Progressive Canadian Muslim Organizations.