Dallas Morning News

King holiday, Holocaust day prompt reflection

04:59 PM CST on Saturday, January 21, 2006

http://www.dallasnews.com/s/dws/dn/neighbors/richardson/columnists/stories/012106rn_col1.26a22667.html

BY MARK MACESICH / Neighbors Editor

Ordinarily, this space would be about the last place in Neighbors you would expect to find something about United Nations resolutions, pronouncements by incendiary foreign leaders or questions about whether American Muslims have taken a sufficiently strong stand against radicalism.

But, apparently, today is out of the ordinary, because there is something to write, much of it originating with an American Muslim and long-time Richardson resident: Mike Ghouse, a Muslim of Asian Indian decent, who resided in Richardson for about 15 years before moving to Carrollton, and Bernie Mayoff, a Jewish resident of Richardson and recent City Council candidate.

Both Ghouse, whose children still attend schools in Richardson, and Mayoff e-mailed us about a Holocaust commemoration event Thursday at FunAsia meeting center.

“In case you were not already aware of it, I thought you would want to know about a local event,” Mayoff wrote. “Remarkably, this observance has been initiated and is being organized by members of the Muslim community.”

“While awareness of the Holocaust is a given in Jewish families, for many other people there is little awareness,” Mayoff said.

“I have been privileged to be a counselor to the folks organizing this event.”

Those folks included Ghouse, founder of the Foundation for Pluralism in Dallas, who previously organized Sept.11 Unity Day and an interfaith, multicultural Thanksgiving celebration that recognized both Judaism and King, as well as Rosa Parks.

“A lot of Pakistanis and Indians are in Richardson,” said Ghouse, who estimated that 70 percent of Richardson-area Muslims derive from those ethnicities. “None of them would be here if it wasn’t for Martin Luther King and what he achieved in this country and for the Jewish contribution to his fight, which uplifted America.”

We spoke on Monday, the official Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

Between Martin Luther King Jr. holiday and the U.N.-recognized Holocaust Remembrance Day, this week provides us the opportunity to reflect on both — the events to which they are tied, how they are linked, how they connect to Richardson and whether we fully appreciate the need for both observances, both reminders of the past.

“I grew up in a Muslim family and read about the Holocaust. … (but) my devout Muslim mother took away the book, telling me to read when I can understand the suffering,” Ghouse said. “Thanks to her, I am one of the volunteers organizing Holocaust memorial day.

“To save a life is saving the whole humanity: Holy Torah and Holy Quran say it; Hinduism talks about the whole world as one family. All faiths teach the same goodness.

“I just visited the Holocaust Museum this week and would urge every disbeliever to visit and understand it,” Ghouse said. “My Mom would be pleased to know that I am doing what it takes to be a good Muslim — to respect every life that God has created.”

The local Holocaust event has received commitments from several Muslim groups, including Richardson’s Al Houda International and the Islamic Association of North Texas, Ghouse said, as well as several more Muslim groups and more than three dozen other religious and civic organizations from the region.

Speakers at the local event are expected to include Ghouse; Imam Zia Sheikh of the Islamic Council of Irving; Rabbi Robert Haas of Temple Shalom of North Dallas; Holocaust survivor Rosalee Schiff of North Dallas, the event’s featured speaker; and Mayoff, who will deliver closing remarks.

Mayoff believes Ghouse got involved, in part, because he saw “an opportunity for Muslims to speak out — to not be silent in the face of evil and wrongdoing.”

“The utterances of [Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad of Iran and [Mohammed Mahdi] Akef of Egypt perhaps do not reflect even their own constituents, let alone Muslims,” Ghouse said, referring to recent remarks by the Iranian president and the head of the largest Egyptian opposition party, respectively. “Muslims do not subscribe to such nonsense, for it is the duty of a Muslim to stand up for a just world.”

“Look at it this way,” he wrote in an appeal to fellow Muslims after the remarks from Iran and Egypt. “Those damned terrorists act in the name of Islam — to do wrong things – (but) they don’t seek anyone’s permission.”

Clearly, Ghouse is unwilling to be silent in the face of such beliefs and is betting that many others in this area — of all faiths and nationalities — are, too.

Officially, the United Nations General Assembly designated Jan. 27 an annual Holocaust Remembrance Day because on that date in 1945, near the end of World War II, the Soviet army liberated the largest Nazi death camp, Auschwitz-Birkenau, in Poland.

Mark Macesich is the editor of Richardson Neighbors. Contact him at 469-330-5670 or mmacesich@dallasnews.com.