On the International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Pakistani educationists and experts in their exclusive statements said that Holocaust must be understood in its own right, and historical as a genocide, suggesting comprehensive hard work as a shared commitment to prevent such crimes against humanity in any part of the globe.
In 2005, the UN General Assembly proclaimed 27 January as the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust. Every year, people from all walks of life pay homage to the victims of persecution and raise awareness about the history of Holocaust, its causes, impact, and its magnitudes in many parts of the world.
The Pakistani experts suggested confronting misrepresentations of Holocaust with facts, inclusive dialogue, and education to understand the ground realities about this tragedy. “We believe that Holocaust compelled all communities to develop a new vision of human rights to ensure that systematic persecution must not be repeated,” they said, and suggested global commitment to prevent genocides.
‘Holocaust denial and distortion are historically incorrect, and factually wrong’
Fawad Javaid Khattak, a lecturer of Pakistan Studies at the Kohat University of Science and Technology in Kohat, suggested more educational research that courageously contradicts and refutes ‘cock and bull’ stories about Holocaust. He stated that the research must speak to Muslims in a debate which they understand and find thought-provoking to participate in. “Ideally, debate about Holocaust is a collective concern of all of us to prevent perpetration of such atrocities against any human being again,” he said.
He said that the Holocaust denial does not transpire in the mainstream of Pakistan’s academic and intellectual spheres. “We must know that Jewish people and atrocities against them didn’t figure much in Pakistan’s historical narrative,” he said, and pointed out that most of Holocaust deniers neither know German or any language of Europe where scholars on Holocaust exists. He said that most of Pakistanis have not visited Auschwitz, Sobibor, or Treblinka concentration camps or the places where the Holocaust took place.
UNESCO is responsible for promoting awareness about Holocaust remembrance through education while the UN General Assembly encourages member states to develop educational programs that will inculcate future generations with lessons of the Holocaust in order to help prevent future acts of genocide. Policymakers termed education about Holocaust a vital mechanism for teaching students to value democracy and human rights, and encouraging them to oppose racism and promote tolerance in their societies.
“Hardly few Pakistanis have met a Jewish person or a Holocaust survivor in their lives. Few are professional historians who might take extra labor to consider studying quality archival sources on the World War-II, modern German and European history or valid sources before denying a tragic calamity that befell the Jewish people in the first half of the twentieth century,” said Fawad Khattak who was engaged in a US Holocaust Memorial Museum research project on the Holocaust impressions of Indo-Pakistani army personnel fighting on the Western front during the World War-II.
Pervez Hoodbhoy calls Holocaust a horrifying period of systematic genocide
Author, physicist, commentator and public speaker Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy who is generally considered one of the most vocal, and progressive members of Pakistani intelligentsia, told Jarida Daily that Holocaust was a horrifying period of systematic genocide perpetrated by Adolf Hitler-led Germany against Jewish people and other targeted groups during the World War II that lasted from 1939 to 1945. “Millions were systematically murdered in concentration camps and through other means, driven by hateful ideology and prejudice,” he said.
He said that tragically the same mindset has been appropriated by Israelis as they seek to eliminate Palestinians from Palestine using indiscriminate bombing and targeting hospitals. “The Holocaust and Palestinian dispossession serve as stark reminders of the dangers of unchecked discrimination and desecration of human rights and dignity,” said Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy who was included in the list of 100 most influential global thinkers in 2011 by the Foreign Policy magazine.
“Some people see the Holocaust and Islam as two separate things, but these stories of faith and catastrophe are not opposites. They are companions,” said Dr Mehnaz Afridi, Professor of Religious Studies and director of the Holocaust, Genocide, and Interfaith Education Center at Manhattan College in New York City. Author of “Shoah Through Muslim Eyes” and other books, she is a member of the ethics and religion committee of the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington.
“And I have the belief that if you speak for another, it means more than if you speak for yourself, for your own people. And when there’s so much daily tension between Muslims and Jews, it’s momentous for us to do this work, whether it’s me with the Holocaust, or it’s a Jewish scholar speaking out about the Muslims in Bosnia or about Palestinian suffering. We are commanded by God to speak the truth,” she said.
“We can never remain silent or indifferent when our human fellows are suffering and the same should not be related to a religion, caste or creed,” Dr Shabbir Sarwar, Associate Professor of Journalism Studies at the Punjab University in Lahore, said while sharing his views with Jarida Daily. He said that Auschwitz and other names of concentration camps have become symbols of incomparable brutality and horror of a tragedy that was culmination of hatred, hate speech, and discrimination against vulnerable communities in Europe.
He said that atrocities inflicted by Adolf Hitler-led Germany on Jews, political dissidents, and others was nourished by layer upon layer of propaganda. “Today, we need to prevent recurrence of racial and religious hatred and discrimination against any community,” he said, and suggested to uphold independent rule of law institutions and a free press, which can hold leaders to account and establish a truthful record of the facts. “We must educate our youngsters about impact of Holocaust on societies, dangers of unchecked hatred, misinformation, and conspiracy theories,” he said.
Calling Holocaust remembrance a call to be on constant alert, Dr Shabbir Sarwar said that all communities should also reject any denial or distortion of the Holocaust as a historical event. “I believe that we must develop educational programs to advance knowledge about the history of Holocaust,” he suggested. “It is our responsibility to honor the memory of those who perished,” he said. “We can fight against religious bigotry, and hate speech through education,” he said, adding that there should be no room for intolerance.
Sharing his views with Jarida Daily, researcher and fiction writer from Islamabad Dr Amjad Ali Bhatti, who also translated a book on Holocaust, stated that the Holocaust stands as a dark chapter in human history, engraved with immense sufferings and tragedy of millions of innocent lives. He suggested a careful consideration of historical perspectives of Holocaust, as all the people from across the board have to remember that crimes against humanity and genocide were abhorrent.
Having experienced the partition of Indian subcontinent in 1947, “I recognize the horrors that communal tensions can unleash,” he said, adding that it serves as a stark reminder that crimes against humanity and genocide were reprehensible and must be condemned clearly. “It is crucial to emphasize the need for a universal condemnation of acts that result in the suffering of innocent lives,” he said, and pointed out that the mentalities that perpetrate crimes against humanity must be denounced collectively.
Dr Amjad Ali Bhatti said that the key lies in fostering an understanding that transcends geographical and cultural boundaries. “We pave the way for a more compassionate world by condemning acts of violence and oppression universally. The lessons from the history should guide us towards a future where humanity, irrespective of nationality or creed, stands united against atrocities,” he said. As a global community, we must work collectively towards building a world where value of human life is held above all else.”
Saeeda Diep says Holocaust stands as stain on human history
Sharing her views with Jarida Daily, human rights and peace campaigner Saeeda Diep stated that Holocaust stands as an indelible stain on human history, condemning the unspeakable suffering inflicted upon innocent lives in the name of a religion. “We unequivocally condemn atrocities of Holocaust, recognizing profound pain and loss endured by countless individuals whose lives were unjustly taken in the darkest chapters of human intolerance,” she said.
“We, in the face of Holocaust, express our condemnation for the heinous acts committed in the name of religious discrimination, acknowledging the profound impact on humanity’s collective conscience,” she said, adding that the Holocaust remains an unspeakable tragedy, a testament to the depths of human cruelty when driven by religious intolerance. “We stand united in condemnation of such atrocities,” said Saeeda Diep, Executive Director of the Center for Peace and Secular Studies.
Senior journalist Ahsan Raza, who is also visiting faculty member of journalism studies in a public university in Lahore, told Jarida Daily that teaching Holocaust in Pakistani schools should be considered. “There are misconceptions about Holocaust in our part of the world,” he said. “Unless the Pakistani society doesn’t understand these misconceptions, there will be no correct course of history,” he said, adding that Holocaust should be taken as a separate subject from Zionism. In this part of the world, he said that the general impression about Jews was that they were always on ‘wrong side’ of two given side. “This is not true.”
‘IT’S POSSIBLE TO CHANGE’
In 2014, Palestinian peace campaigner and Wasatia movement founder Professor Mohammed Shihad Dajani led a delegation of 30 students to the concentration and extermination camp in Auschwitz, guided by two Holocaust survivors, on a trip aimed at teaching acceptance, empathy and tolerance. “Our movement stands for humanity, understanding Islam and independence. We believe in the big dream – a dream of peace,” he said.
“I wanted to leave the door open for social change, reconciliation and peace,” he said while recalling impact of his educational trip to the ‘death camp’ in Germany. “The views of Palestinian students changed after they visited Auschwitz. They realized they had nothing to fear from opening their eyes to these chapters of tragic human history,” he said. “We can see overwhelming antisemitic literature in libraries and bookstores causes opposition to Holocaust education,” said Mohammed Dajani, who was also Rector of Libraries at the Al-Quds University.
“Holocaust denial and distortion are historically incorrect, and factually wrong, and constitute a significant threat to morality and human dignity, and to prospects of reconciliation and peace,” he said. “Learning the tragic lessons of the past is necessary to avoid their recurrence in the present and future. Showing empathy and compassion for suffering of others would make this world a better place. It is a sign of respect for the truth. When truth is denied or ignored, it destroys those values we cherish,” he adds.
“We need to study the impact of these traumatic events to enrich our understanding of the conflict and design intervention programs to reduce psychological distress resulting from these events to seek a comprehensive, just, peaceful solution to end the conflict.” In 2014, he received the Dr Jean Mayer Global Citizenship Award from Tufts University in recognition of his work to build peace, encourage dialogue, and find alternatives to extremism. He is also the recipient of the 2022 Simon Wiesenthal Award for Civic Engagement to Combat Antisemitism.
- NOTE: On the International Day of Commemoration
in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust – that falls
on January 27 every year – Jarida Daily is writing on
Holocaust with due respect, and deep sense of pain