June 12, 2007 / 12:09 PM / 10 years ago

Indonesia conference denounces Holocaust denial

JIMBARAN, Indonesia (Reuters) - Indonesia’s former president denounced Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Tuesday for branding the Holocaust a myth.

<p>Rabbi Daniel Landes (R), director of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies, accompanied by former Indonesian president Abdurrahman Wahid (C) and Sri Sri Ravishankar (L) from India, speaks during a religious leaders meeting in Bali June 12, 2007. Indonesia's resort island of Bali hosted on Tuesday a meeting of religious leaders partly aimed at countering an Iranian-backed conference last year that questioned the existence of the Holocaust. REUTERS/Murdani Usman</p>

Abdurrahman Wahid was speaking at a meeting on the Indonesian island of Bali which was partly aimed at countering an Iranian-backed conference last year where the mass slaughter of Jews in World War Two was questioned.

“I visited Auschwitz’s Museum of Holocaust and I saw many shoes of the dead people in Auschwitz. Because of this, I believe Holocaust happened,” said Wahid, who led the world’s most populous Muslim nation between 1999 to 2001.

“Although I am a good friend of Ahmadinejad ... I have to say that he is wrong,” said the former president, who led the world’s most populous Muslim nation from 1999 to 2001.

The privately backed meeting was sponsored by the U.S.-based LibForAll organisation, which aims to counter Muslim extremism, and the Wiesenthal Centre’s Museum of Tolerance. It brought together leaders from various religions, as well as Holocaust survivors and victims of terrorist attacks.

Ahmadinejad’s government hosted a conference in December saying it wanted to allow researchers from nations where it is a crime to question the killing of 6 million Jews by the Nazis to speak freely.

Security for the Bali event in a five-star hotel was tight. Bali is a Hindu enclave in Indonesia, but has suffered attacks by Islamic militants, including the 2002 nightclub bombings that killed more than 200 people, mostly foreign tourists.

About 85 percent of Indonesia’s 220 million people are Muslims. Most are moderates, although there is an increasingly vocal radical fringe.

As well as Muslim leaders, the meeting included a Catholic priest, a Buddhist and Sri Sri Ravishankar, a Hindu leader.

Victims of the Bali attacks, an Australian woman who was wounded by a suicide bomb in Jerusalem and a Holocaust survivor also attended.

Sol Teichman, a Czech-born Holocaust survivor who said he lost 70 relatives, told Reuters he had a question for anyone disputing the Holocaust.

“Can you tell me please what happened to my mother? Where is my sister? Where is my brother?”

A conference communique read by Rabbi Daniel Landes urged religious leaders to avoid manipulating religion for political purposes.

Indonesia does not have diplomatic ties with Israel. Jakarta, along with Qatar, last week delayed a proposed U.N. Security Council statement condemning comments by Iran’s president that forecast the destruction of Israel.

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