Remona Aly is Campaigns Director of the Exploring Islam Foundation, whose Missing Pages campaign highlighted little known stories of solidarity between Muslims and Jews.
It haunts me to this day, that small, grainy photograph printed on the page of a history book. Standing in front of their classmates with heads bent down, two young schoolchildren are humiliated for being ‘different’. Behind them, the chalk on the blackboard reads: “The Jew is our greatest enemy. Beware of the Jew!”
Their story spoke to me. It speaks to me still. I was a schoolgirl myself when I first saw the image. How easy it could have been for me to be of their time, to be standing in their shoes. History is meant to be a lesson to us, but past hatred, injustice, and oppression refuse to remain locked within the pages of our text books. They rear their ugly heads time and again casting a bleak shadow upon humankind. We still haven’t learned. Yet our voices should never stop rising up no matter who we are and for whom we are speaking. My own faith teaches me the sanctity of life and the value of human dignity, and confirms my instinct to stand in solidarity with the oppressed, to speak out against acts of injustice. Sometimes a voice is the only weapon we have to break the apathy of silence. In seeking justice for another, we seek justice for us all.
History reeks of suffering which should not be forgotten, yet we must always remember the crucial narrative of hope that inspires – that of courage and compassion in the face of Nazi oppression. Among them are the stories of the Albanian Muslims who risked their lives in sheltering Jewish families; the rector of the Grand Mosque of Paris who used the building as a sanctuary for Jews; the Tunisian aristocrat who saved a Jewish woman from molestation by a German officer; the Bosnian Muslim librarian who saved the Haggadah from the hands of the Nazis. These are the stories that speak volumes.
It’s time for us all to speak out.