28th January 2005
Today's leader column described it as 'reprehensible' (Times, 28 Jan) while your columnist Daniel Finkelstein thought it 'disgraceful' (Times, 26 Jan).
The decision by the Muslim Council of Britain to decline the invitation to this year's Holocaust Memorial Day was not intended to belittle the horror of the Nazi Holocaust. The view held by the MCB - ever since the inception of Holocaust Memorial Day in 2001 - is that the subtext of the memorial day -"Never Again" - is greatly diluted by the exclusive nature of the event.
The memorial day would in our opinion be better served by also covering more recent and ongoing mass killings and human rights abuses in our world, and thus make the cry "Never Again" real for all people who suffer, even now. In the last decade we have seen genocide take place in both Rwanda (1 million killed in the space of a few weeks) and Chechnya (10% of its population has been killed since the Russians launched their first invasion in 1994) and Bosnia. We need to do more than just reflect on the past. We must be able to recognise when similar abuses occur in our own time.
Not to acknowledge current and recent genocides would be to undermine the benefits of remembrance, deprecate lessons learnt from the Nazi Holocaust and call into question our commitment to prevent current and future inhumanity. The Nazi Holocaust began with a hatred of an entire people because of their religion and ethnic identity. To reflect a more tolerant and inclusive Britain, we believe that Holocaust Memorial Day ought to be renamed "Genocide Memorial Day" to make no distinction between genocides undertaken against people of other religions and ethnicity. Is that really so 'reprehensible'?
The Muslim Council of Britain
London E15 1NT