British Muslims decline invitation to Holocaust Memorial Day


British Muslim leaders are unwilling to attend commemorations of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp, arguing that Holocaust Memorial Day today should honour victims of genocide everywhere.

Britain's main Islamic group said it should be called Genocide Memorial Day and commemorate all mass killings, including Bosnia, Rwanda and in Palestinian territories where up to 3.6 million Palestinians live under Israeli occupation.

"Israel has also committed mass killings," said Mr Inayat Bunglawala, spokesman for the Muslim Council of Britain.

"It is undeniable ... It has dispossessed a Palestinian nation. It is an insult to them if we don't recognise their deaths. The cry 'Never Again' should be for all people."

The council, representing 1.6 million Muslims in Britain, has written to Home Office Minister Mr Charles Clarke spelling out their reasons for declining their invitation to attend.

"We are not belittling the Holocaust. We share the immense pain and anguish felt in the Jewish community about the Holocaust, but feel Britain is a multi-faith country and everyone should be involved," Mr Bunglawala said.

This had been the council's standpoint since the inception of Holocaust Memorial Day in 2001, he added.

"We believe the term Holocaust Memorial Day in the title is not inclusive," he said.

The Board of Deputies, an umbrella group for Britain's 290,000 Jews, was disappointed by the Muslims' stance.

"It is regrettable that they have declined this year especially as we commemorate the liberation of the camps by Allied forces," said a spokesman.

"The board refute any suggestion that the Israelis are committing genocide."

As part of British commemorations, Queen Elizabeth is hosting a reception today for Holocaust survivors and British veterans who liberated the death camps.