Sat, Dec 24, 2005 - Page 6 News List

Holocaust is a `myth', claims Islamic leader

EGYPTIAN CONTROVERSY In remarks similar to those recently made by the Iranian president, Egypt's main Islamic group slammed the West for being anti-Islam


The leader of Egypt's main Islamic opposition group said the Holocaust was a "myth," and he slammed Western governments for criticizing disclaimers of the Jewish genocide.

The comments by Muslim Brotherhood chief Mohammed Mahdi Akef -- made on the heels of his group's strong showing in Egyptian parliamentary elections -- echoed remarks made recently by Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, which sparked international outrage.

"Western democracies have slammed all those who don't see eye-to-eye with the Zionists regarding the myth of the Holocaust," Akef wrote in a weekly article meant as a directive to the group's followers on its official Web site.

In Israel, the director of the Israeli branch of the Nazi watchdog, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, warned, "There's no question that a very ugly wave of Holocaust denial is sweeping the Arab world."

"The problem is that so far in the Arab world, very few leaders are willing to tell their own people that they have to understand that the Holocaust did take place," Efraim Zuroff said.

Akef's hard-line rhetoric was in contrast to the moderate tone the Brotherhood took in November and December parliamentary elections, during which it played down its calls for implementing Shariah, or Islamic law, in Egypt and instead touted itself as a pro-democracy movement.

The outlawed Brotherhood surprised many with its election showing, winning 88 seats in the legislature -- about 20 percent of the body -- and establishing itself as the top opposition bloc.

In his article, Akef lashed out at the US and other Western powers for what he described as a campaign against Islam.

"These words are meant to expose the false American rule which has become a nightmare of a new world order," Akef said.

"I am making these comments to all free people in the world, aiming to wake up the conscience in humanity. The sword of democracy is only unsheathed against those who raise the flag of Islam," he added.

Similar comments by Ahmadinejad earlier this month sparked an international outcry. The Iranian president called the Holocaust -- in which an estimated 6 million Jews were killed -- a "myth" and said Europeans have used it to create a Jewish state in the heart of the Islamic world.

He also said Israel should be "wiped off the map."

Arab governments and media did not condemn Ahmadinejad's remarks.

It was not clear why Akef made the remarks, but his article was full of criticism of Western democracy, which he said "was drawn up by the sons of Zion."

A top Brotherhood leader said the group is disenchanted by the US policies in the Middle East, including US President George W. Bush's reform plans for the region.

"In fact, the Americans appeared to be hypocrites about the issue of reform," Essam el-Aryan said.

"They maintain silence when the [election's] results were not favorable to them," he said.

In an interview last month, Akef promised that the group will not use its new leverage in the parliament to try to change Egypt's foreign policy, including its 1979 peace treaty with Israel. He said the group will not push for a fight with Israel.

His remarks seemed to be designed to allay Western concerns about the organization's newfound strength.

Following the elections, Akef promised that Brotherhood parliamentarians would represent all Egyptian groups -- Muslims, Coptic Christians, men and women -- in an attempt to calm widespread fear of the group among Christians, women and secularists.

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