By Muneeb Nasir
One of the darkest times in recent history, the 1995 Srebrenica genocide, offers many painful lessons for us and has many troubling parallels in today’s world, according to Dr. Waqar Azmi, the Founder and Chairman of Remembering Srebrenica, a UK based charity.
Dr. Azmi made the remarks at an event held on Friday, December 6th at Toronto’s Bosnian Islamic Centre where he presented a proposal for the establishment of an International Srebrenica Memorial Learning Centre in the UK.
In July 1995, the small town of Srebrenica witnessed the genocide of thousands of Muslim Bosniak boys and men. They were targeted for cultural and religious reasons by the Bosnian Serb Army of Republika Srpska during the Bosnian War.
“People do not understand the ideology that underpin that war,” said Dr. Azmi. “The ideology of genocide is this – that you eliminate the existence of a particular ethnic or religious group, that you destroy the men, you rape the women so they are totally destroyed, you destroy mosques and libraries so the total cultural genocide happens.”
“How is it that people who have been living together for 500 years as neighbours, visiting each other, going to each other’s funerals and weddings – how is it that neighbours murdered their neighbours. These genocides did not happen just by accident, it was planned and orchestrated.”
Waqar Azmi OBE is listed in the world’s 500 most influential Muslims by Georgetown University, as well as the Asian power 100 list of the most influential Asians in the UK. He is UK Government’s former Chief Diversity Adviser at the Cabinet Office and EU Ambassador of Intercultural Dialogue.
Remembering Srebrenica is a United Kingdom charitable initiative that promotes Srebrenica Memorial Day on 11 July, runs ‘Lessons from Srebrenica’ educational visits programme and leads year-round public awareness campaigns and activities to teach the consequences of hatred and the importance of building stronger cohesive communities.
“In the West two genocides have taken place – one was against the Jews, the holocaust and the second was against the Muslims,” Dr. Azmi told the gathering. “Two genocides in the West have taken place based on hatred.”
Dr. Azmi spoke of the need to establish the world’s first International Srebrenica Memorial Learning Centre in the UK to combat hatred and intolerance through leadership engagement, commemoration and educational activities.
“The idea is that all we have done in the UK, we want to do that in Germany, France, Holland, Canada and the US to ensure that the teaching of Srebrenica is not forgotten and that people can build a better, safer world. This is the most powerful way of tackling Islamophobia,“ he said.
The Centre will work to combat hatred and intolerance through using the lessons from the Srebrenica genocide.
He noted that the lessons from the Srebrenicia genocide will not only heighten awareness of the dangers of intolerance in the contemporary world, but bring to the fore an appreciation of respecting religious beliefs and upholding universal values.
For information about the International Srebrenica Memorial Learning Centre visit: https://www.srebrenica.org.uk/information/donate-to-create-the-worlds-first-international-srebrenica-memorial-learning-centre/