It was the Muslim community in Rwanda that provided sanctuary to both Hutus and Tutsis…but there are many other examples of such interventions to help others in the name of a common humanity. During WW2, the Muslims of Paris risked life and limb to rescue Jews from the Nazis..
There is wide recognition among both Muslims and non-Muslims in Rwanda that the vast majority of the Muslim community did not participate in the genocide, but rather acted positively, with many Hutu Muslims protecting Tutsi Muslims and non-Muslims. The President of Rwanda made a public statement in 1995 in recognition of the community’s positive behaviour, at a public ceremony celebrating the appointment of the first Muslim member of cabinet. He said that Muslims in Rwanda did not participate in the genocide, and called upon them to teach other Rwandans how to live together.
Source: Case study, Resistance and Protection: Muslim Community actions during the Rwandan Genocide. By Kristin Doughty and David Moussa Ntambara, May 2005.
Annette Herskovits recounts her childhood experiences in Paris:
“There is in the centre of Paris a handsome mosque with a tall slender minaret and lovely gardens. It was built in the 1920s, as an expression of gratitude from France for the over half-million Muslims from its African possessions who fought alongside the French in the 1914-1918 war. About 100,000 of them died in the trenches.
During World War II, when the Germans occupied France, the mosque sheltered resistance fighters and North Africans who had escaped from German POW camps. (The French recruited 340,000 North African troops into the French army in 1939.) When the French police started rounding up Jews and delivering them to the German occupiers, the mosque sheltered Jews as well, most of them children.
The Nazi program called for eliminating all Jews, of any age. More than 11,600 Jewish children under 16, including 2,000 younger than six, were deported from France to be murdered at camps in eastern Europe. Still, 83 percent of the Jewish children living in France in 1939 survived. …
Hiding children entailed a complex, extended organization. Rescuers had to get hold of the children, which often meant kidnapping them from detention centres or Jewish children’s homes in full view of the Nazi occupiers. They had to procure false papers, find shelter (in foster homes, boarding schools, convents), raise funds to pay for upkeep, and send the payments without attracting attention.
They had to keep records, in code, of the children’s true and false names and whereabouts, bring the children to their hiding places in small groups, and visit them regularly to ascertain that they were well treated. Many who participated in this work – both Jews and non-Jews – perished….
When my parents were deported from Paris to Auschwitz in June of 1943, never to return, my 13-year-old sister and myself, just turned four, were in a foster home in the French countryside. With no more money coming for our keep and the danger to people sheltering Jews, our foster parents balked at keeping us. In the fall, I found myself hiding in a shabby Paris hotel room with my 17-year-old brother. My sister became a maid for a French family….
I learned of Muslims who helped rescue Jewish children only recently, in the newsletter of Enfants Caches (Hidden Children), an association of Jews who survived the Holocaust in France as children.
The mosque-based resistance network consisted of people from Algeria’s mountainous Kabylia regions. Kabyls are one of several North-African groups who have preserved their Berber language and culture ; the Berbers inhabited North Africa before the Arabs invaded and introduced Islam in the 7th century. At least 95 percent of Algerian immigrants to France came from Kabylia. The network’s Kabyls communicated in their Berber dialect, Tamazight, making infiltration almost impossible.
The soul of the network was the mosque’s rector, Si Kaddour Benghabrit, a man with three nationalities – Algerian, Moroccan, and French – who moved with ease in all three worlds…
More than 1,700 people are thought to have found short-term shelter in apartments on or near the grounds of the mosque. Benghabrit set up an alert system that allowed fugitives to disappear swiftly in case of a raid – if necessary to the prayer roomís womenís section, where men were normally not admitted. He wrote numerous false birth certificates making Jewish children into Muslims.
Access to Paris’s sewers directly beneath the mosque’s grounds provided an escape path, as did the mosque’s proximity to the city’s central wine market on the Seine, where barges laden with wine barrels came and went. One woman recalled being taken out of Paris on a barge ; a Kabyl at the helm took fugitives concealed in his cargo to the south of France, where they could be smuggled to Algeria or Spain”.
In her book ‘Londonistan’, Melanie Phillips writes, “the only circumstances in which Muslims have been content to live along side Jews are where Jews have been a powerless minority within an Islamic society…at the core of the Arab and Muslim fight against Israel, therefore, lies a visceral hatred and prejudice towards the Jewish people”. What arrant nonsense! (49)