Iran recently organized a conference on denial of the Holocaust, inviting steadfast condemnation from the West. Many perceive Tehran’s conference as hiding the gruesome “truth” about the Holocaust, the ghastly massacre of Jews by Nazi Germany and its allies prior to and during World War II. The massacre took place under the unjustifiable claim that the Jews were an “inferior” and “impure” race unworthy to coexist with the Aryans(Germans).
Under today’s completely changed context, modern-day Germany banned its nationals from attending the controversial conference. Wolfgang Benz, Director of the German Center for Anti-Semitism Research, stressed that there should be a clear acceptance that “indeed the holocaust happened.” He argued, “Reality cannot be a matter for debate and does not belong in the political realm to be viewed according to one’s political ideology.” While Thomas Kruger, the chief organizer of the Berlin counter-conference, cautioned that the denial of holocaust could “intoxicate moderate minds into being misled.”
Most historians consider the Holocaust as an undeniable chapter in history, and its consistent denial by the Iranian authority has spurred outrage among many groups. Critics state that denying holocaust is an act of “racism,” and on the pretext of it being a “punishable offense,” Austria even convicted and imprisoned David Irving for his denial of the holocaust.
There is no doubt that the Holocaust was a gruesome truth, as testified by eyewitnesses and by elaborate research by many scholars. But, rather than setting on a fixed standpoint for or against the existence of the Holocaust, it would be better to address the growing ideological conflict over the issue, on the basis of “freedom of speech,” the modern-day principle. No doubt, critics argue that it is futile to defend the denial of holocaust from the “free speech” perspective, as it “offends” the victims of the incident.
Yet freedom of speech does seem to hold enough legitimacy that it should not be violated on the pretext of preventing offense, even though that offense could be against an established truth. Truth is always more powerful than any distorted political dogma or false propaganda, and it would be more wise for us to confront this denial calmly and see that the truth prevails. Even though Iran intends solely to irritate its enemies by denying the Holocaust, yet the truth cannot be outweighed. The principal of intolerance against the denial of the Holocaust sounds less justifiable in the context of modern day principles of freedom of expression.
Let’s look back at the violent furor from the Muslim population against the Danish publication of the caricatures satirizing the Prophet Muhammad. The publication ignited global Muslim outrage, leading to a violent backlash. Among the Muslim critics was Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who vehemently protested against the Danish publication for “humiliating” the culture of Islam. Even though the West raised the concern of “freedom of speech,” they still couldn’t convince the hard-line Muslim protesters to halt the violence that killed several innocent people in Afghanistan, Lebanon, Libya, Nigeria, and other Muslim countries. That was an unfortunate event which we still tend to regard as against the norm of freedom of speech and tolerance.
The following article has also been published on English.ohmynews.com