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Tuesday, Sep 30 , 2014 ( Thul-Hijjah, 1435)

Updated:10:00 PM GMT

UK Celebrates Muslim Heroism

OnIslam & Newspapers
Muslim-Jews UK
The exhibition at the British parliament tells the stories of Albanian Muslims saving Jews during WWII
Albania Muslims, Jews, exhibition

CAIRO – Throwing light on the decades-long peaceful co-existence between Muslims and Jews, a new exhibition at the British parliament is telling stories of Albanian Muslims saving Jews during WWII.

"'Missing Pages' aims to shed light on the rich history of coexistence between Muslims and Jews," Lord Patel, a Muslim peer, said at the launch of the campaign in Westminster's House of Lords, Deutsch Welle reported Tuesday, January 25.

"Anti-Semitism has no place in Islam and we need to revive the legacy of mutual cooperation and peaceful coexistence."

Run by the Exploring Islam Foundation, the exhibition, at the House of Lords, highlights stories of how Albanian Muslims saved and sheltered Jews from the Nazis during WWII.

It focuses on the works of American Jewish photographer Norman Gershman, who traveled to Albania to record stories of Muslim families who rescued Jews.

Each photograph at the exhibition is accompanied by a description of the stories of those who sheltered Jewish families.

The exhibition is part of the "Missing Pages" campaign, which is traveling to British university campuses, co-hosted by Islamic and Jewish societies.

"It features forgotten stories of heroic courage and compassion at great personal risk during World War II," Kristiane Backer, the organization’s global ambassador, said.

"Stories of Muslim and Jewish people which we hope will inspire our common future."

The untold heroic stories of Albania Muslims were marked earlier in 2009 in a booklet titled “The Role of Righteous Muslim Persons.”

The booklet, initiated by Faith Matters, a London-based interfaith organization, focuses on the stories of Albania Muslims who sheltered and defended Jews.

Not only Albania, other Muslim nations such as Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco and Turkey also opened their borders to Jews at a time when all other European nations declined them this right.

Muslim Heroism

The exhibition tells the story of Bahrije Borici, whose family sheltered a whole family of Jewish refugees in 1943.

"The Nazis had warned our community that anyone harboring Jews would be killed,” Borici’s story reads.

Borici was still young when her father brought home Isak and Bela Bivas and their 13-year-old daughter Rashel.

"My father organized false passports with Albanian Muslim names," the story says.

Living together for months, the children developed a sincere friendship.

"Rashel and I were the best of friends.

"I taught her the Albanian language. She even went to religious school with me.”

Many Jews attended the exhibition, giving their firsthand experience with Muslims.

One of those was Scarlett Epstein, an Austrian-Jewish refugee, who says she owed Albanian Muslims her life.

"We were a group of about 50 German-, Polish- and Austrian Jewish refugees who lived together in Albania," Epstein said at the opening of the exhibition.

"We stayed in one house sharing everything. We lived right next to the police station. All of the policemen were Muslim. And obviously it was strategic to be friends with the police.

"We had only tourist visas, and they expired. But the Albanians, unlike the Yugoslavs, never wanted to throw us out.

"Because they were Muslims they wanted to help us."

For Gershman, the American Jewish photographer, the stories of mutual cooperation and co-existence between Muslims and Jews defy the growing misconceptions about the two religious communities.

"We're having a sweeping paranoia, you know, that all Muslims in some way are either terrorists or terrorist sympathizers," Gershman told reporters in London.

"Just like that all Jews are moneylenders. And all Christians are crusaders. And all Muslims are terrorists," he added.

"It's crazy. It's absolute madness and I won't subscribe to it."

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