Dr. Mehnaz Afridi: International Holocaust Remembrance Day

In a world that is at a height of conflict in multiple ways, many are trying to educate on the topics that are dividing our nation. On February 1, 2017, known as International Holocaust Remembrance Day, professor Mehnaz Afridi spoke to a crowd at Ritsche Auditorium, educating the crowd on many different topics involving the Holocaust as well as the Islam religion.

Dr. Afridi is a professor of religion at Manhattan College in New York, and very uniquely, she teaches about both the Holocaust as well as Islam.

“Only in the U.S. can you have a Muslim woman speak on the remembrance of the Holocaust,” she said as an opening remark.

Dr. Afridi receives lots of disdain in her community for touching on both focuses. However, she sees the Holocaust and Islam as things that are more similar than people think.

President Vaidya opened the event. The President thanked everyone in attendance, and as many of the students were scattered all around the auditorium in different places, he invited the crowd to move forward towards the front of the stage.

“Thank you for attending in the spirit of humanity,” remarked Vaidya. He then introduced Dr. Afridi, and the event was off and running.

Dr. Afridi began the event by discussing some current events. As most know, there is a lot of tension going on right now in America regarding Muslims and Islam. This was shortly after President Donald Trump’s executive order to ban immigrants from seven primarily Muslim countries, even those that were coming legally. Dr. Afridi touched on that, saying, “Although we have come so far, we still have a long way to go.”

The word Dr. Afridi primarily used for the Holocaust was Shoah, which is the Hebrew word for catastrophe. She talked about the role played by Arabs in the Holocaust. Remarking on their role during the Shoah, the professor spoke on how propaganda led to many Arabs siding with the Nazis, and helping during the Shoah.

She then powerfully quoted a German officer speaking to one of the Arabs, “Your time will come,” said the officer. “Once we are finished with the Jews, we are coming for you.”

Near the end of the appearance, Dr. Afridi took questions from the crowd. One gentleman in the crowd asked her, “What, as a Muslim, got you interested in the Holocaust?” Her answer? “My parents told me to respect all,” she said.

“As a Muslim, I respect the Jews for similar hardships my people faced.” She talked about when she lived in New York, and she received lots of hate just for being Muslim. Additionally, she said her religion helped her. “Islam taught me to be accepting of all – even if it goes against my own people.”

Another question Dr. Afridi received was regarding the current social climate in America, specifically, Islamophobia. The member of the crowd asked if what we are currently seeing with Islamophobia is similar to what Jews faced before the Shoah.

“Not to the extent the Jews faced, but you can certainly draw many parallels,” she stated. She referenced many similar topics the two groups faced, such as unnecessary hate, marginalization of the groups, exaggerations of negatives about the groups, among other things.

This event was an excellent way to celebrate and educate others on the remembrance of the Holocaust, as well as being knowledgeable of the current Islamophobia tension. It was an excellent way to reflect on the day. Dr. Afridi also wrote a book on the topic, called Shoah Through Muslim Eyes, that will come out on March 31st.

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