MUSLIM leaders have urged Portsmouth to ‘never let hate win’ after a ceremony remembered victims of the worst atrocity on European soil since the Second World War.
More than 8,000 Bosniaks, mostly Muslim men and boys, were systematically killed because of their faith and ethnicity when the Srebrenica massacre began on July 11, 1995.
It came 50 years after the world vowed not to repeat the horrors of the Holocaust, yet Muslim leaders say society is ‘still coming to terms’ with its lessons even now.
Imams from Portsmouth and Fareham yesterday met Christians and city leaders to plant a bush at Southsea Rose Garden, remembering Srebrenica’s victims.
Sheikh Fazle Abbas Datoo, of the Al Mahdi mosque in Fontley, Fareham, said: ‘We learn from Srebrenica that hatred, xenophobia and intolerance can flourish if left unchallenged.
‘Even in Bosnia-Herzegovina where people of different faiths had lived peacefully together for many years, an integrated society disintegrated.’
He added: ‘We must work together to convey a powerful message that hate will never win.’
The 3.30pm ceremony began with an address from Portsmouth City Council leader, councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson, who paid tribute to those lost in the genocide.
He said the regrettable ‘language of division and hate’ that fuelled the killings is one still recognised today, which everyone in society carries a burden to eradicate.
Muhammad Muhi Uddin, head imam at Portsmouth Jami Mosque in Victoria Road North, said the rose bush planted yesterday is a symbol of that burden.
‘It symbolises that what happened in the past might happen again the future, and it should remind us we should be vigilant,’ he said.
‘Our society consists of different types of people from different races and religions and we need to learn to live together peacefully, with respect, mutual understanding and love.
‘Today’s event teaches us the importance of that and, mostly importantly, that we can do this.’
Both imams joined Portsmouth Lord Mayor, Cllr David Fuller and his chaplain, Reverend Tracey Ansell, to plant the bush.
Cllr Vernon-Jackson added: ‘The lesson we must learn from these atrocities is that we must always be vigilant of any types of hatred in our communities’.