The Canadian Islamic Congress designated Yom Al Zekrah to be marked annually on the 15th of July in memory of more than 8 million Muslims who have fallen victim to genocides throughout history.
On July 15 in 1099 C.E., 70,000 Muslims were slaughtered by European Crusaders in Jerusalem in 1099. (A massacre on the same scale, in proportion to today's world population, could exceed 5 million!) Canadian Muslims officially marked this sombre day for the first time in 1999, 900 years after the Jerusalem Massacre.
Yom Al Zekrah (which in Quranic Arabic means "day of remembrance") is now an occasion for commemorating Muslim civilian victims of genocide worldwide and throughout recorded history -- in Bosnia, Kosovo, Chechnya, Kashmir, China, Burma, Iraq, Sabra, Shatela and Qana in Lebanon, in Jerusalem, and in Africa.
"This is a day of remembrance, healing and praying, a lesson in history," the CIC national president, Prof. Mohamed I. Elmasry said. "Regrettably, genocide against Muslims has not received a fair share of attention and research by historians or the media."
"Muslims hope and pray that genocide against any group of humans would cease to happen. Genocides, or so-called 'ethnic cleansings' are brutal mass exterminations of innocent civilians who were of the 'wrong' race, the 'wrong' religion, living at the 'wrong' time, and in the 'wrong' place," he said. "We would like to keep the memory of the numerous victims vividly alive."
"Therefore, we commemorate the Muslim victims of July 11, 1995 at Srebeniza, as much those Muslim victims of the massacre of Baghdad on February 13, 1258."
An estimated 2 million Muslims died in Russian concentration camps in the Arctic between 1932 and 1957. Another 2 million were slaughtered during more than eight centuries of Spanish Crusades and the Inquisition (912-1834). A further 2 million were lost to Mongol invaders between 1219 and 1260, and an estimated 2 million more were wiped out by European Crusaders from 1095 to 1272. During the African slave trade to the Americas, an estimated 2 million African Muslims perished at sea.
Other massacres of Muslims include recent tragedies in Kosovo, Bosnia, Chechnya, Kashmir, Lebanon, Palestine, and Iraq.
"By remembering our Muslim victims on this day, we are not playing down the genocides committed against other racial, ethnic, religious or minority groups," Elmasry emphasized.
Yom Al Zekrah is followed by a Genocide Against Muslims Awareness (GAMA) week.
The Congress calls on Muslim Imams and community leaders worldwide to mark Yom Al Zekrah and for all teachers, religious and community leaders and media professionals to participate in GAMA week by helping to educate the public -- Muslim and non-Muslim alike -- about the evils of genocide. The Congress also calls on peace-loving people of all faiths everywhere to condemn genocide.
"We are taking particular care to involve the young in observing Yom Al Zekrah," said Mrs. Wahida Valiante, national VP of the Congress.
"GAMA week provides a forum for the young to learn about these terrible crimes ...Today, genocide against Muslims in Chechnya and Iraq is a daily occurrence."
The term "genocide" was first introduced in 1944 and is defined by U.N. Resolution 260(III), December 9, 1948 as follows:
"Genocide, whether committed in time of peace or in time of war, is a crime under international law. Genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, as such: killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part, imposing measures intended to prevent birth within the group, or forcibly transferring children of the group to another group."
(This article was re-published with permission from the Canadian Islamic Congress' Friday Bulletin)