Iranian Holocaust Cartoon Competitions and Exhibitions: Goals, Sponsors, and Themes

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By Majid Mohammadi


1. Iranian Holocaust cartoon competitions and exhibitions are part of a broader propaganda effort run and supported by the military and religious establishment, both of which are directly managed by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei;

2. The government, through various mechanisms and institutions, provides the permissions, financial and material support, and the locations necessary for implementing these activities; ​it is incorrect to call the contest organizers NGOs​;

3. The main objective of these contests is to deny the Holocaust and the existence of Israel as a legitimate state​; it is not primarily a reaction to the cartoons of Prophet Mohammed published in the West;

4. The themes of the cartoons are intended to instigate hatred against Jews and the citizens of Israel, and the ideas expressed are not supported by historical, social, or political observations and research​;

5. Although some prominent Iranian cartoonists have denounced the contests and independent art critics have ignored them, political groups and civil society institutions in Iran have been silent​;

6. Political propaganda does not only belong to one faction in Iran; all factions are in line with the Supreme Leader’s positions;

7. The change of presidential administration in Iran has not resulted in significant changes in the foreign and media policies of the state, including with respect to distortion of the Holocaust, which are determined by the Supreme Leader; any changes have been small and tactical, rather than substantial and strategic.


The first international Holocaust cartoon competition in Iran was held in 2005, right after Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s inauguration as President. The competition was organized and sponsored by the Hamshahri Institute, which publishes the ​Hamshahri​ newspaper (Tehran municipality’s official news outlet), and the Iran House of Cartoon. According to the competition organizers, they received 1193 cartoons from cartoonists living in 63 countries. A selected number of cartoons were shown to the public in an exhibition in August 2006.

In December 2006,​ the Iranian Foreign Ministry's Institute for Political and International Studies (IPIS) held a conference promoting Holocaust denial titled “Review of the Holocaust: Global Vision.” President Ahmadinejad attended its closing ​ceremony​. These activities, launched in the beginning of the new presidential administration, were signs of a specific and comprehensive plan for denying the Holocaust.

The Iran House of Cartoon and the Sarcheshmeh Cultural Complex in Iran held the second international Holocaust cartoon competition in 2015. ​According to the organizers​, the contest drew participants from 50 countries and they​ ​received​ 845 entries from 312 cartoonists​. The​ ​Owj Media and Art Institute first declared that it would pay for prizes worth US$5,000, $8,000, and $12,000 to the top three winners of the contest. Later it doubled the prizes. The 50 thousand dollars in prizes will be paid by a governmental institution, while two-­thirds of Iranian families live on US$7.50 a day.

The second Holocaust cartoon exhibition will be held in May 2016 as the main event of the 11th​ International Cartoon Biennale ​in Iran. The exhibition will include 102 Holocaust cartoons, as well as 50 cartoons depicting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and will be ​held​ in the art section of the Islamic Propaganda Organization.

The Goals of the Contests

Three sets of goals are mentioned in statements of the contest organizers, which are reflected in the works presented in the competitions and exhibitions:

a. Reaction to the European publication of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed​. According to the organizers, the first and foremost objective of holding these competitions and exhibitions is to react to events in Europe: “Ten years ago a Danish newspaper, ​Jyllands­-Posten​,​ published 12 insulting cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed. In reaction to this claim that media are free in the West and they have no limitation and everything could be the subject of work, we held the first round of​ the Holocaust cartoon contest. In a second event, ​Charlie Hebdo​ published a very insulting drawing of the Prophet Mohammed. In response to this decision we held the second contest after 10 years,” ​said Mas`oud Shoja’i Tabataba’i, the spokesman for the cartoon contest organizers.

b. Denial of the existence of Israel as a legitimate state​. The main theme of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s propaganda targeting Middle Eastern audiences is to deny the existence of Israel as a legitimate state. The Islamic Republic seeks to be the most prominent global voice of antisemitic and anti­Israel sentiment and in doing so has made connections with and promoted individuals espousing these views from across the world. The Holocaust is just a subject of a set of cartoons in this effort. Why focus on the Holocaust in order to deny the existence of Israel? “Because the Zionist regime is based on the idea of the Holocaust.... The Holocaust is the Zionist’s great lie to occupy Palestine” ​says Mas`oud Shoja`i Tabataba’i. For Shi`ite Islamists in Iran (which include the ruling clerics, high­-ranking officers in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and their loyalists), the murder of millions of European Jews is a pretext that Zionists use to convince the world of the need for a Jewish State.

c. Holocaust denial​. The real objective of holding these contests and exhibitions-- ­­­as will be explained below-- ­­­is to deny this historical event and to re­introduce it as a lie. This objective helped the organizers gain the approval of Ahmadinejad and his team when he was Mayor of Tehran and later the Office of the President to support the contest and exhibition and to receive the required permissions and funding. The organizers were following the lead of Iran’s Supreme Leader ​Sayyed Ali Hosseini Khamenei and ​President Ahmadinejad, as well as high-­ranking clerics and military commanders in denying the Holocaust.

When confronted with journalists, the contest and exhibition spokesman claims that the purpose of these activities is not to deny the Holocaust, but to criticize “inconsistent freedom of expression” in countries that support Zionism. First, in the Iranian media and public sphere these competitions and exhibitions are understood as Holocaust denial. Almost all reports on these activities ​use​ the term “Holocaust myth.” The Iran House of Cartoon website for the first contest ​uses​ the same term and one of the cartoons by Mr. Shoja`i (also a cartoonist) calls the Holocaust a lie.                  


Lies (Mas`oud Shoja`i) Omid Mehdinejad ​writes​ in the introduction to a book (titled ​Holocaust​) that is a collection of some Holocaust cartoons: “this book tries to criticize this apparent lie that six million Jews were killed during WWII based on a plan. This lie is so obvious that there is no need for further explanations. Based on this lie, Zionist occupiers of Palestine have justified their occupation and atrocities from the beginning to this time.”

Second, if these contests and exhibitions are not to deny the Holocaust, why did Iran’s Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, recently attempt to distance himself from the 2016 exhibition in an interview in ​The New Yorker​ published in April 2016? Why did he say that he would avoid going to the exhibition?

The three sets of goals listed above are not equal. The first objective has nothing to do with the claimed or expected result. The appropriate reaction to cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed is not drawing Holocaust cartoons. There are hundreds of ways to react to those cartoons. For this reason, in my view the main objective of the contest is not in reaction to the Prophet Mohammed cartoons, but to deny the Holocaust and the existence of Israel as a legitimate state. Because the denial of Israel’s existence is a pillar of the Islamic Republic’s foreign policy, it is obvious that it should be seen in Islamists’ propaganda.

The Sponsors of the Conference and Their Connections to the Government

The nature of activities such as these Holocaust cartoon contests and exhibitions is propaganda in an authoritarian state. There is nothing in these cartoons for increasing awareness, entertainment, or transferring information. The expenses of these activities are totally paid by governmental institutions, whether military, cultural, municipal, or religious. These institutions, their pseudo branches, and seemingly private affiliates (with deceiving names such as Apex, ​Owj​ in Persian) may have misleading titles, but they are all organized, financed, and managed under the Supreme Leader’s office, his appointed bodies, and the executive branch headed by the President. There are no private or independent non­governmental institutions active in this area. The government and its varied set of institutions are the only ones that pay for these types of ideologically oriented activities. ​There is no channel for private funds, and no provision in Iran’s tax code, to support these activities.

The Hamshahri Institute, which sponsored the first Holocaust cartoon contest, is a propaganda­-oriented institution financed and managed by the Tehran municipality. Under the Ahmadinejad mayorship (2003-­2005), this Institute was transformed into a propaganda machine for Islamists who have military and security backgrounds. Another sponsor of the first contest was the Iran House of Cartoon, which was ​financed​ by the Tehran municipality.

Tehran and other municipalities in Iran are not public institutions under the control of the local citizenry. The Supreme Leader’s office, Khamenei himself, and the executive authorities under the President directly interfere in the selection of mayors in metropolitan areas such as Tehran, Mash­had, and Shiraz. The executive power has the power to dismiss members of city and village councils. Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, the mayor of Tehran since 2005, was hand-picked by Khamenei. As an ex­-commander of the IRGC, he has been very close to the Supreme Leader. Every city or village council candidate who is not considered an “insider” is disqualified from the elections. Khamenei micro­manages municipal affairs very much in the same way as he does everything in the country. When Gholamhossein Karbaschi was the mayor of Tehran during the Rafsanjani administration, he tried to dismiss Mohammad Va`ezi, who was head of the Art and Culture Organization of the Tehran municipality, without success. Va`ezi was close to Khamenei.

The Saba Art and Culture Institute, which hosted the first exhibition, works under the Iranian Art Academy, which is a governmental institution; its budget is approved by the Majles (Islamic assembly or parliament) and its board members are appointed by the government​.

Saba Art and Culture Institute in Tehran

The second competition is sponsored by the Owj Media and Art Institute and the Sarcheshmeh Cultural Complex. Owj is funded by the IRGC and managed by members of the IRGC and Basij (a militia under the IRGC); Sarcheshmeh is funded by the Islamic Propaganda Organization (IPO), a governmental institution that works under Khamenei. These are not independent NGOs, because they are funded and managed heavily by the IRGC and IPO. The cartoons of the second competition will be presented as a part of Iran's Cartoon Biennale, which is funded and organized by the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance. The second exhibition will be ​held​ in the Palestine Museum. Similar to the Saba Institute, the Palestine Museum is ​a section​ of the Iranian Art Academy.

The Owj Institute’s website does not give any information about its founders, board members (if any), and sponsors, but its products and its goals (as well as its lack of commercial advertisements and a line in the government’s yearly budget) show that it is dependent on the military establishment. This Institute was totally and adamantly against the Iran and 5+1 nuclear deal, and it reflected the IRGC commanders’ ideas on this issue. On other cultural and social issues, such as the ​hejab​, promoting virtue and prohibiting vice, and women’s issues, this Institute reflects the militarist Islamists’ points of view. Looking at the extent of its publications, movie productions, graphic arts, banners and street billboards, it is clear that its budget should be in the range of ten million dollars.

Owj Media and Art Institute headquarters in Tehran

When asked about the relationship between the IRGC and the Owj Institute, Ramezan Sharif, the spokesperson of IRGC public affairs ​said​: “from the beginning, the Owj Institute declared its specific orientation toward activities regarding the Revolution, Sacred Defense, and Islamic awakening, and all of these three areas have a very special adhesiveness to the IRGC. From this point of view, without close cooperation and support of organizations such as the IRGC and Iranian Armed Forces, this activity would not be brought to full fruition. Based on its definition of its activities, this institution has been able to receive more of IRGC’s material and financial resources. If other people do the same kind of activities, they will receive this support too.” According to Iranian news agencies and news websites, the Owj Institute ​implements​ IRGC and Basij’s propaganda projects.

The Sarcheshmeh Cultural Complex (also known as the Cultural Institute for Islamic Revolutions’ Martyrs; Sarcheshmeh is a neighborhood in Tehran) does not give any specific information about its financing on its ​website​. Similar to the Owj Institute, this complex has no line in the government’s yearly budget and no private company or foundation has declared that it is going to fund it. All managers and known figures of this institution have a military background and have worked for the military establishment. According to its website, the “Cultural Complex for Islamic Revolutions’ Martyrs [another name for ​Sarcheshmeh Cultural Complex​] was launched in 2011 in the location where dozens of members of the Islamic Republic Party were killed [in 1981]. The mission of this complex is to protect the culture of sacrifice and martyrdom in the society and to transfer sublime values of the Islamic Revolution from risen generation to inheriting generation.... This complex was built with the help of Ahmad Ghadirian and the Tehran municipality and is managed under the Islamic Propaganda Organization.” The IPO receives its budget from the government.

Sarcheshmeh Complex in Tehran

All of the expenses of Iran’s International Cartoon Biennale, which will include the Holocaust cartoon exhibition in 2016, are paid by the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance. No competition or exhibition is possible without receiving permission from this Ministry. The organizers of the Holocaust competitions and exhibitions are so close to Khamenei’s office that this Ministry cannot refuse to grant permission to them.

If a competition, exhibition, or concert has the Ministry’s permission, but the Supreme Leader, the IRGC, or important Friday prayer leaders are against it, there is no way for it to happen. Therefore, Iranian officials cannot claim that a cultural event, such as this competition, could take place without their permission.

Organizers and managers of institutions such as Iran’s House of Cartoon, Owj Institute, and Sarcheshmeh Complex are all people who call themselves “Hezbullahi” (members of God’s party) in Iran. They have an active role in silencing and oppressing other voices and are supported by the Leader’s office and the military and security establishment. Iranian Hezbullah has a long history of arson attacks on bookstores, attacking cinemas, closing concert halls, beating journalists, and bombing newspapers’ headquarters. The head of the Sarcheshmeh Complex has a long history of ​working with​ Lebanese Hezbullah when he lived in Lebanon.

Most of the Hezbullahis work for the military and security establishment as profiling officers. Khamenei calls them “military officers of soft war,” and by “soft war” he means oppressing other voices. The main subjects of their so-­called “cultural activities” are preventing the “cultural invasion of the West” and “promoting the Islamic lifestyle,” the “war against the West,” and the “expansion of Islamism in Iran and all over the world.”

A number of institutions involved in the Islamic Republic’s propaganda and indoctrination efforts have been active in Holocaust denial activities. The Islamic Propaganda Organization (​Sāzmān­e Tablighāt­e Eslāmi​), the Qum Office of Islamic Propaganda (​Daftar­e Tablighāt­e Eslāmi­ye Qom​), and the Islamic Culture and Communications Organization (​Sāzmān­e Farhang va Ertebātāt­e Eslāmi​) have clear and distinct missions of propaganda and indoctrination inside and outside the country. Ministries of Education, Islamic Culture and Guidance, and Justice, the Judiciary, seminaries that now are all funded by the public budgets, Radio and TV channels, Basij (militia), IRGC, IRA (military forces), and the Disciplinary Forces (police) directly work as sections of an undeclared ministry of propaganda and indoctrination. Other governmental ministries, departments, and offices are indirectly involved in Islamist propaganda and indoctrination through ideological recruitment, training, ombudsman, and ceremonies. In the last two decades, the governmental institutions have established fake private or non­-profit institutions to do their jobs. These institutions are launched by close allies of Ali Khamenei and people with close ties to them.

In his interview with Robin Wright in ​The New Yorker​, Foreign Minister Javad Zarif claimed​ that the Holocaust cartoon exhibition is organized and funded by an NGO and that the Iranian state has no authority to stop it: “It’s not Iran. It’s an N.G.O. that is not controlled by the Iranian government. Nor is it endorsed by the Iranian government.... ​It doesn’t need a permit to hold the function. The Iranian government does not support, nor does it organize, any cartoon festival of the nature that you’re talking about.”

This statement needs fact checking. ​He claims that NGOs do not have to get permission for their activities in Iran, while every cultural and social activity in Iran requires such permission. The ​condition​ for receiving this permission is “to avoid insulting beliefs and opinions” through “audio, video, painting, and cartoon.” In this case, Holocaust denial is insulting other people’s beliefs through cartoons and the permission should not have been granted.

The second factual twist to Zarif’s statements comes from confusing “non­-state” and “governmental.” Some of the organizers are not receiving funds from the “state” (i.e. the executive power under President Rouhani), but they are funded by other governmental organizations (under Khamenei). The IRGC, the Tehran municipality, and the Islamic Propaganda Organization, which fund these activities, work under Khamenei. The Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, which also funds and gives approval and facilities to these contests and exhibitions, works under Rouhani. None of these are independent nongovernmental organizations.

The third factual problem is the comparison between Iran and the United States regarding free speech. Iran is an authoritarian state in which the idea of an NGO with the right to act against the regime's preferences is unbelievable. The state-­sponsored pathological hatred toward the Jewish people could not be promoted without the approval of Iran’s Supreme Leader. He spreads hatred in virtually every public speech; therefore Zarif’s comparison of the “exhibition’s” sponsors with America’s Ku Klux Klan in terms of promoting hatred is his only accurate statement.

Themes of the Cartoons

The themes of the cartoons from the first competition can be categorized into six subjects (samples are given below under each category):

1) There is a Palestinian Holocaust being committed by Israel;

2) Zionism is Nazism;

3) Israel misuses the Holocaust to justify killing Palestinians;

4) A Holocaust myth was created to legitimize the State of Israel;

5) The Holocaust is a lie; and

6) There is no freedom of speech in the West.

None of these statements are supported by historical, social, or political observations and research. All of them are based on engineering reality by cartoonists who hate Israel. They are not drawn to make a point or to entertain. These are bad and ugly jokes intended to instigate hatred and to justify violence against Jews and citizens of Israel. The cartoons are using art to make lies and twist reality.

The audience does not know if s/he should take these cartoons seriously or as a joke. An ideological propaganda machine, whether Islamist, communist, or fascist, uses any medium including comedy to fabricate the truth while claiming to transfer information. The border between publishing and broadcasting information, and propaganda in authoritarian states is regularly blurred.

Holocaust Denial in the Context of Iranian Propaganda and Indoctrination Policies

In the Islamic Republic of Iran, propaganda (​tablighāt​) and indoctrination (​hoqneh kardan, elqā’​) are essentially the primary and most important functions of the Islamic government. Iranian Shi’ite clerics, as the founders and protectors of the Islamic regime, are indoctrinated to be indoctrinators. The main mission of the regime’s Shi`ite clerics and the people who work for them is to propagate and spread Shi’ite Islam by preaching and persuading believers that Shi’ite Islam is the only religion that carries the truth and salvation, and that other faiths are wrong and misleading. Their main aim is to dehumanize and create hatred toward a supposed enemy, either internal or external. The regime’s external enemy is a vague perception of the West, focusing primarily on the United States, Israel, and some European countries, especially the United Kingdom; the internal enemy is any entity that does not agree with the pillars of Islamist ideology, the Islamic regime and government, and the administration. The objective of the propaganda is to produce a false and confusing image of the so­-called enemies.

Propaganda and indoctrination exist and are pursued and institutionalized in the Islamic regime because they serve various social and political purposes. They help the regime to mobilize its base, which has been shrinking since the 1980s; they are reactions to the regime’s legitimacy crisis and a cover up for the decreasing popularity and influence of the unelected leaders of the regime.

The ruling clerics of Iran look at Iranians as minors; this is the basic idea of the theory of guardianship of the jurist (​velāyat-­e faqih​). The guardian decides what the minor needs and which way s/he should be headed in her/his life. This idea is supposed to be indoctrinated into the hearts and minds of Iranians. The Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran gives priority to propaganda and indoctrination by founding the Islamic regime on the basis of Islamic ideology and putting the Islamic jurist above the law. According to the preamble of the Constitution, “the mass-­communication media, radio, and television must serve the diffusion of Islamic culture in pursuit of the evolutionary course of the Islamic Revolution.” Article 175 gives the upper hand in this respect to the jurist/leader: “the appointment and dismissal of the head of the Radio and Television of the Islamic Republic of Iran rests with the Leader.”

Propaganda and indoctrination are pursued as inseparable from politics. Radio and TV stations are run by the government and the press is controlled by high-­ranking officials; all news items, analyses, and reports are directed toward satisfying the ruling clerics. The free flow of information has no place in this media system: the regime considers propaganda as the only function of media outlets. Education, entertainment, and their mixtures (i.e. edutainment, infotainment) are reduced to propaganda and indoctrination.

Each of the cartoons presented in the first Holocaust exhibition manipulated the reality to indoctrinate an ideology of hatred toward the West and Israel. This hatred is supposed to legitimize the government and to justify the absolute power of the clerics in the country.

Why is the Islamic Republic using cartoons to spread its lies? The answer is clear: to avoid responsibility and accountability by resorting to a medium that is usually used to distort and exaggerate reality. This medium is not to tell lies, but to make a point or to entertain.

Iranian Society’s Reaction to the Cartoon Contests

The number of people who visited the first exhibition has not been made public. It should be noted that there is no survey to indicate that the visitors to these kinds of exhibitions in Iran believe in the mission of the exhibitions. People do not have to pay anything to visit, therefore students are encouraged to attend. Most of the middle-­ and high-­school students in attendance are bused to these exhibitions.

There are no surveys of Iranians regarding their knowledge and attitude towards the Holocaust and the government's promotion of Holocaust denial.

No independent graphics analyst has written a review of this exhibition or of the cartoons. It seems that Iranian independent cartoonists look at the cartoons as mere propaganda. Prominent Iranian cartoonists, such as Nikahang ​Kowsar​ and Mana Neyastani​, have denounced them. Art critics have completely ignored them. This is strong evidence of the low quality of the cartoons.

Unfortunately, political groups and civil society institutions have been silent on the competitions and exhibitions. The Islamists and secular left still carry the baggage of their anti-­imperialist past and have anti­-Israeli and even anti-semitic opinions. This political approach still treats Israel as a U.S. base in the Middle East and not as an independent country. Even secular nationalists who have a populist orientation believe that the Iranian people have anti­-Israeli attitudes, and hence avoid criticizing anti-­Israeli propaganda and policies, even though Israel could be the most important ally of Iran in the region.

Has the Change of Presidential Administrations Brought a Change in Policy?

After 2012, when Rouhani was elected President, some groups expected to see Holocaust denial sidelined by the Iranian government. They believed Rouhani’s administration was going to mend relationships between the Islamic Republic and the West, and would see issues such as Holocaust denial as an obstacle. Rouhani and Zarif were aware of this situation and kept their silence and did not call the Holocaust a “myth.” They even tried to show respect toward Jewish people, but their animosity toward the state of Israel remained intact.

This expectation of the government was due to a lack of knowledge of the Islamic Republic’s ideology and structure. Holocaust denial is the official position of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and no Iranian official can do anything against it. Considering this official position, the ​spokesperson of the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance ​said​: “there was a misinterpretation of Zarif's comments. We support any program that enlightens people about the Holocaust." He did not specifically talk about cartoons, but his statement included the cartoon contest.

Since Foreign Minister Zarif’s interview in ​The New Yorker​, contest spokesman Mas`oud Shoja`i has confirmed that his group has been cooperating with the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance for the cartoon exhibition. This is consistent with the general situation in Iran: cultural events such as this one require the permission of the Rouhani administration. Mr. Shoja`i ​criticized​ Zarif for distancing himself from the exhibition: “the Foreign Minister in his ​New Yorker ​magazine interview states that this exhibition is not confirmed by the administration. This is his personal opinion.... We are cooperating with the Ministry of [Culture and] Islamic Guidance. This Ministry is responsible for graphic arts and they are aware of what we are doing. Everybody knows that we are doing this from a dignified position; the Foreign Minister’s position is not consistent with the Minister of [Culture and] Islamic Guidance.” Knowing Khamenei’s position, Zarif’s practical position was to declare that he will not attend the exhibition. Mr. Shoja`i responded by saying: “you are not welcome.”

The reformist camp does not have a consistent position on this issue. Some of the reformist figures, such as Mohammad Qoochani (editor of several reformist newspapers and magazines), attended a news conference to promote the Holocaust exhibition. The city council that approves the budget of the Tehran municipality has always had a few reformist members and could have challenged financing Holocaust cartoons, but they did not. The will to wipe Israel from the map and to deny the Holocaust do not belong to just one political faction in Iran. Religious reformists have always supported the principles of the Islamic Republic’s foreign policies, one of which is denying the existence of Israel. All Shi`ite Islamists, even religious reformists who have been jailed for their ideas, support Hezbollah and Hamas.

The only difference between the reformists (Rouhani, Khatami, and Hashemi Rafsanjani as their leaders) and non-­reformists (Khamenei and Ahmadinejad as their leaders) is their tactics: reformists believe that denying the Holocaust is not a priority and should be sidelined, while the non­-reformists believe that hatred against Israel and Jews will increase the Islamic Republic’s influence in the region. They believe that exhibitions of Holocaust cartoons help the Islamic Republic to promote its objectives and strategies to be a force in global issues.


Majid Mohammadi is an Iranian-­born freelance writer and researcher who focuses on Iranian politics and society. The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum commissioned this white paper of Iranian cartoon contests. The opinions expressed herein are the author’s, and not necessarily those of the Museum.

Asset source: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

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Although branded as the transcript of a Jewish plot masterminding world domination, a large portion of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion is copied directly from a political satire by French writer Maurice Joly. Joly’s protagonist warns, “Like the God Vishnu, my press will have a hundred arms and these arms will give their hands to all the different shades of opinion throughout the country," and the Protocols attribute an almost identical statement to a “sinister” Jew. This plagiarism is just one of the many holes in the Protocols' so-called indictment of world Jewry.
Despite his sharp criticism of organized religion, Voltaire, one of the Enlightenment's greatest thinkers, resolutely defended religious tolerance. The most famous example of this defense was sparked by a tragedy. In October 1761, Marc-Antoine Calas, a young man from a Protestant family living in Catholic France, was found dead in his father’s shop in Toulouse, most likely by suicide. Public opinion quickly settled on his father, Jean, as the prime suspect – it was supposed that he had killed Marc-Antoine to prevent him from converting to Catholicism. Jean was repeatedly and inhumanely tortured and eventually executed. Outraged by the blatant injustice of the case, Voltaire succeeded in securing Jean a posthumous pardon, and went on to write his famous treatise on religious tolerance.
In 1920, the anti-Semitic business magnate Henry Ford published excerpts from the Protocols of the Elders of Zion as part of a disparaging series of leading articles in his private newspaper, the Dearborn Independent. The public was unimpressed, with the New York Times condemning the Protocols as the “strangest jumble of crazy ideas that ever found its way in print.” However, his dissemination of the Protocols did contribute to the spread of anti-Semitic thought in modern America, and Ford’s propaganda was later applauded by Goebbels and Hitler.
Across the United States there are over five hundred distinct tribes of Native Americans speaking more than two hundred indigenous languages, and very few of them have a word for "religion." Despite having a myriad of spiritual beliefs and rituals, Native American tribes view the issue to be intermingled with every aspect of community and family life. “We don't have a religion”, some Native Americans insist, “we have a way of life.”
In 1935, the infamous “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” were branded a forgery by a Swiss court. “I hope that one day there will come a time,” the judge concluded, “when no one will any longer comprehend how in the year 1935 almost a dozen fully sensible and reasonable men could for fourteen days torment their brains before a court of Berne over the authenticity or lack of authenticity of these so-called Protocols…that for all the harm they have already caused and may yet cause, are nothing but ridiculous nonsense.” Sadly, the Protocols are still in circulation today, and are held up as "proof" for anti-Semitic theories.
On July 8, 1985, school children in a small Indian town rose to sing the national anthem, "Jana Gana Mana," but one 15-year old boy and his sisters did not join their classmates. As Jehovah’s Witnesses, they believed singing the anthem constituted idolatry, and could not bring themselves to violate their beliefs. This behavior was condemned as unpatriotic by school employees and became a local scandal, eventually resulting in the expulsion of the children. Their family sued, and the case eventually rose to the Supreme Court where the children were exonerated, with Justice O. Chinnappa Reddy reiterating “Our tradition teaches tolerance; our philosophy preaches tolerance; our constitution practices tolerance; let us not dilute it.”
In the spring of 1994, Hutu militants murdered up to one million Rwandans, mostly from the Tutsi ethnic group. However, the sharp ethnic distinction drawn between Tutsis and the majority Hutus is a recent phenomenon; originally, the term “Tutsi” denoted a person rich in cattle, while a "Hutu" was a grower of crops. It wasn’t until the advent of Belgian colonial rule that Rwandans were forced to carry identity cards denoting their ethnicity. That measure, along with the ban on Hutus seeking higher education and other discrimination sowed the seeds of genocide.
The magnificent Hagia Sophia was constructed by the Byzantine Empire as a Christian basilica in the 6th century CE, and has stood the test of time for almost 1500 years. When Sultan Mehmed II’s armies conquered Constantinople in 1453, he could not bring himself to destroy the beautiful building and instead added minarets, converting it into a mosque. Since its repurposing as a museum in 1935 the Hagia Sophia has served a physical reminder of the intertwined relationship between Islam and Christianity, with Islamic calligraphy and Christian mosaics adorning the same structure.
Even as Hitler rose to power in Germany, Baghdad was a haven of religious and ethnic tolerance with Arabs, Kurds, and Turkmen, Muslims, Christians, Yazidis and Sabeans living in a land where “the mosque stands beside the church and the synagogue.” Hebrew was one of Iraq’s six languages and about 120,000 Jews lived in the country. Today, after decades of intermittent war and repression, it is estimated that fewer than ten Jews remain, while more Yazidis and Christians flee every day.
Although Hindi is India’s most widely spoken language, over 780 languages exist throughout the subcontinent. However, 220 have disappeared over the last 50 years, as their last speakers pass away and young children do not learn them. With English and Hindi often associated with education and development, incentives to preserve less-common languages are low, and their worlds and cultures are vanishing. In reaction to this trend, a movement to preserve the country's linguistic heritage has emerged throughout India, with activists using online talking dictionaries, YouTube videos and social media to save these languages from extinction.
In 2012, online hate speech from Burma’s Facebook users exploded as some from the country's majority Buddhist population accused minority Muslims of a plot to dominate the country. With online vitriol stoking real-world conflicts, the Panzagar movement arose to combat the trend. Panzagar translates to "flower speech" in English, and the movement intervened through designing a series of “flower speech” Facebook stickers to post under offensive material. The stickers are cheerful and cartoonish, and seek to defuse heated arguments through lighthearted reminders to practice respect and tolerance.
The heady days of the Arab Spring brought glimpses of what a more tolerant Middle East could look like. As pro-government soldiers threatened to disperse protesters in Tahrir Square in early 2011, Christians formed a ring around worshipping Muslim activists. Those Muslims later returned the favor by gathering protectively around praying Christians. Although religious tensions in Egypt have consistently run high in its modern history and Coptic Christians face persecution, those civic gestures in Tahrir Square showed that another Egypt is possible.
In the early 20th century, the Ku Klux Klan was responsible for the deaths of thousands of African-Americans, and symbols of the Klan – like the burning cross – inspired terror nationwide. But in 1946, the Klan was dealt a significant blow by a single concerned citizen. Activist and author Stetson Kennedy infiltrated the Klan over a period of months, gathering key information on the group's secret rituals and code words. Kennedy then shared his knowledge with the writers of a Superman radio serial, leading to the broadcast of The Adventures of Superman: "Clan of the Fiery Cross,” which over a two-week period exposed the Klan’s best-kept secrets. By trivializing the Klan, the broadcast helped strip the Klan of its mystique. Over time, the group declined rapidly and only a few thousand members are active today.
The United States of America has a formal policy commitment to protect religious freedom globally. In 1998, Congress passed the International Religious Freedom Act, establishing the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). The Commission monitors the status of religious freedoms throughout the world and makes policy recommendations to the US government, including on the designation of serious repeat violators as "Countries of Particular Concern" (CPCs).
Sierra Leone is a beacon of religious tolerance in West Africa. With a Christian president elected by a roughly 70% Muslim nation, both groups pray alongside each other with conversions and intermarriage commonplace. Some Sierra Leonian citizens even practice both religions; known as ChrisMus, they attend regular prayers at the mosque while faithfully attending church on Sundays.
Appalled by the scourge of slavery across the United States, Harriet Beecher Stowe called attention to its horrors and impact on American society by publishing Uncle Tom’s Cabin in 1852. Selling 10,000 copies in its first week and becoming the second best-selling book of the century after the Bible, the graphic horrors of slavery portrayed in the book ignited social consciousness and fierce public debate. This debate carried through into the U.S. Civil War, which in turn led to Congress passing the 13th amendment to the U.S. Constitution, prohibiting slavery throughout the country. Uncle Tom's Cabin prepared the way for one of the biggest social shifts in American history.

 The love of one's country is a splendid thing. But why should love stop at the border?

- Pablo Casals (1876-1973), Spanish cellist, 1974

 All of us have this commandment at heart: do good and do not do evil. All of us.... this ‘closing off’ that imagines that those outside, everyone, cannot do good is a wall that leads to war and also to what some people throughout history have conceived of: killing in the name of God.... And that, simply, is blasphemy.

- Pope Francis (1936-present), May 22, 2013

 No man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship or ministry or shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief, but all men shall be free to profess and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion.

- Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), Author of the Declaration of Independence and Third President of the United States, Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom, 1786

 Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.

- Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968), American Baptist minister and leader of the American Civil Rights Movement, Strength to Love, 1963

 Compassion is sometimes the fatal capacity for feeling what it is like to live in somebody else’s skin. It is the knowledge that there can never really be any peace and joy for me unless there is peace and joy finally for you too.

- Frederick Buechner (1926-present), American writer and theologian

 The life of the nation is secure only while the nation is honest, truthful, and virtuous.

- Frederick Douglass (1818-1895), African-American abolitionist and U.S. minister to Haiti from 1889 to 1891, Speech on the twenty-fourth anniversary of Emancipation in the District of Columbia, Washington, D.C., April 1885

 Whenever you're in conflict with someone, there is one factor that can make the difference between damaging your relationship and deepening it. That factor is attitude.

- William James (1842-1910), American philosopher and psychologist

 You may choose to look the other way but you can never again say you did not know.

- William Wilberforce (1759-1833), English abolitionist, 1791

 Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.

- Frederick Douglass (1818-1895), African-American abolitionist and U.S. minister to Haiti from 1889 to 1891, Speech on the twenty-fourth anniversary of Emancipation in the District of Columbia, Washington, D.C., April 1886

 I truly believe the only way we can create global peace is through not only educating our minds, but our hearts and our souls.

- Malala Yousafzai (1997-present), Pakistani activist for female education and Nobel Prize laureate, September 3, 2013

 The test of faith is whether I can make space for difference. Can I recognize God's image in someone who is not in my image, whose language, faith, ideal, are different from mine? If I cannot, then I have made God in my image instead of allowing him to remake me in his.

- Jonathan Sacks (1948 - present), rabbi, philosopher and scholar of Judaism, The Dignity of Difference, 2002

 Parents can only give good advice or put them on the right paths, but the final forming of a person's character lies in their own hands.

- Anne Frank (1929-1945), author of The Diary of a Young Girl, 1942-1944

 For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.

- Nelson Mandela (1918-2013), South African anti-apartheid revolutionary and first black president of South Africa,Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela, 1995

 If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind.

- John Stuart Mill (1806-1873), British philosopher, political economist and civil servant, On Liberty, 1859

 I believe in God who made of one blood all races that dwell on earth. I believe that all men, black and brown and white, are brothers, varying through Time and Opportunity, in form and gift and feature, but differing in no essential particular, and alike in soul and in the possibility of infinite development.

- W.E.B Dubois (1868-1963), African American sociologist, historian, civil rights activist, Darkwater: Voices from Within the Veil, 1920

 Compassion is not religious business, it is human business. It is not a luxury, it is essential for our own peace and mental stability. It is essential for human survival.

- 14th Dalai Lama (1935 - present), spiritual leader of Tibet

 Each person must live their life as a model for others.

- Rosa Parks (1913-2005), African-American civil rights activist

 It is a worthy thing to fight for one's freedom; it is another sight finer to fight for another man's.

- Mark Twain (1835-1910), American author and humorist, June 17, 1898

 From the saintly and single-minded idealist to the fanatic is often but a step.

- Friedrich Hayek (1899-1992), economist and philosopher, 1944

 It is my inmost conviction, Badshah Khan said, that Islam is amal, yakeen, muhabat – selfless service, faith, and love.

- Badshah Khan (1890-1988), Pashtun independence activist

 All major religious traditions carry basically the same message, that is love, compassion and forgiveness … the important thing is they should be part of our daily lives.

- 14th Dalai Lama (1935-present)

 We all know we are unique individuals, but we tend to see others as representatives of groups.

- Deborah Tannen (1945-present), linguist and author, You Just Don't Understand, 1990

 Being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions.

- John Locke (1632-1704), English philosopher, Second Treatise of Government, 1689

 How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.

- Anne Frank (1929-1945), author of The Diary of a Young Girl, 1942-1944, March 26, 1944

 I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it.

- Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), Author of the Declaration of Independence and Third President of the United States,Letter to Archibald Stuart, Philadelphia, December 23, 1791

 Religion must mainly be a matter of principles only. It cannot be a matter of rules. The moment it degenerates into rules, it ceases to be a religion, as it kills responsibility which is an essence of the true religious act.

- Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar (1891-1956), Indian jurist, economist, politician and social reformer

 We must plan for freedom, and not only for security, if for no other reason than only freedom can make security more secure.

- Karl Popper (1902-1994), Austrian-British philosopher, The Open Society and its Enemies, 1945

 Is discord going to show itself while we are still fighting, is the Jew once again worth less than another? Oh, it is sad, very sad, that once more, for the umpteenth time, the old truth is confirmed: "What one Christian does is his own responsibility, what one Jew does is thrown back at all Jews."

- Anne Frank (1929-1945), author of The Diary of a Young Girl, 1942-1944, entry dated as May 22, 1944

 [Most] can seldom discern even the simplest and most obvious truth if it be such as obliges them to admit the falsity of conclusions they have formed, perhaps with much difficulty — conclusions of which they are proud, which they have taught to others, and on which they have built their lives.

- Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910), Russian novelist, playwright, and philosopher

 I do not want my house to be walled in on all sides and my windows to be stuffed. I want the cultures of all lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But I refuse to be blown off my feet by any. I refuse to live in other people’s houses as an interloper, a beggar or a slave.

- Mahatma Gandhi (1969-1948), leader of Indian independence movement, 1927

 I am a lover of truth, a worshipper of freedom, a celebrant at the altar of language and purity and tolerance. That is my religion.... My belief in my religion is strong and I know that lies will always fail and indecency and intolerance will always perish.

- Stephen Fry (1957-present), English comedian, actor, writer, presenter, and activist, 1993

 He that would make his own liberty secure, must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty, he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself.

- Thomas Paine (1737-1809), English-American political activist, philosopher, and revolutionary, Dissertation on First Principles of Government, July 1795

 Give to every other human being every right that you claim for yourself.

- Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899), American lawyer, May 8, 1888

 I can imagine nothing more terrifying than an Eternity filled with men who were all the same. The only thing which has made life bearable…has been the diversity of creatures on the surface of the globe.

- T. H. White (1906-1964), English author

 [W]e are all guilty in some Measure of the same narrow way of Thinking... when we fancy the Customs, Dresses, and Manners of other Countries are ridiculous and extravagant, if they do not resemble those of our own.

- Joseph Addison (1672-1719), English essayist, poet, playwright, and politician, 1711

 The golden rule of conduct... is mutual toleration, seeing that we will never all think alike and we shall always see Truth in fragment and from different angles of vision. Even amongst the most conscientious persons, there will be room enough for honest differences of opinion. The only possible rule of conduct in any civilised society is, therefore, mutual toleration.

- Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948), leader of Indian independence movement, 1927

 At every level of society, familial, tribal, national and international, the key to a happier and more peaceful and successful world is the growth of compassion.

- 14th Dalai Lama (1935-present), The Compassionate Life, 2001

 There is only one good, knowledge, and one evil, ignorance.

- Socrates (469 BC-399 BC), Greek philosopher

 There's in people simply an urge to destroy, an urge to kill, to murder and rage, and until all mankind, without exception, undergoes a great change, wars will be waged, everything that has been built up, cultivated, and grown will be destroyed and disfigured, after which mankind will have to begin all over again.

- Anne Frank (1929-1945), author of The Diary of a Young Girl, 1942-1944, entry dated May 3, 1944

 I have striven not to laugh at human actions, not to weep at them, nor to hate them, but to understand them.

- Baruch de Spinoza (1632-1677), Dutch philosopher, Tractatus Theologico-Politicus, 1670

 You must not treat others with cruelty and that much harshly, you must fight others but through peace and through dialogue and through education.

- Malala Yousafzai (1997-present), Pakistani activist for female education and Nobel Prize laureate, October 10, 2013

 My country is the world, and my religion is to do good.

- Thomas Paine (1737-1809), English-American political activist, philosopher, and revolutionary, The Rights of Man, 1791

 The time must come when, great and pressing as change and betterment may be, they do not involve killing and hurting people.

- W.E.B Dubois (1868-1963), African American sociologist, historian, civil rights activist, Dark Princess, 1928

 Freedom of judgment must necessarily be permitted and people must be governed in such a way that they can live in harmony, even though they openly hold different and contradictory opinions.

- Baruch de Spinoza (1632-1677), Dutch philosopher, Tractatus Theologico-Politicus, 1670

 Tolerance is the positive and cordial effort to understand another’s beliefs, practices, and habits without necessarily sharing or accepting them.

- Joshua Loth Liebman (1907-1948), American rabbi and best-selling author, Peace of Mind: Insights on Human Nature That Can Change Your Life, 1946

 If we cannot end now our differences, at least we can make the world safe for diversity.

- John F. Kennedy (1917-1961), 35th President of the United States, Commencement Address at American University, June 10, 1963

 I was heartened that people everywhere want certain basic freedoms, even if they live in a totally different cultural environment.

- Aung San Suu Kyi (1945-present), Nobel Peace Prize laureate and leader of the National League for Democracy in Burma, 2012

 God's dream is that you and I and all of us will realize that we are family, that we are made for togetherness, for goodness, and for compassion.

- Desmond Tutu (1931-present), South African social rights activist and retired Anglican bishop, April 26, 2005

 I like the religion that teaches liberty, equality and fraternity.

- Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar (1891-1956), Indian jurist, economist, politician and social reformer

 Human nature is not simple and any classification that roughly divides men into good and bad, superior and inferior, slave and free, is and must be ludicrously untrue and universally dangerous as a permanent exhaustive classification.

- W.E.B Dubois (1868-1963), African American sociologist, historian, civil rights activist, Evolution of the Race Problem, 1909

 I believe we are here on the planet Earth to live, grow up and do what we can to make this world a better place for all people to enjoy freedom.

- Rosa Parks (1913-2005), African-American civil rights activist

 The scientist is free, and must be free to ask any question, to doubt any assertion, to seek for any evidence, to correct any errors. Our political life is also predicated on openness. We know that the only way to avoid error is to detect it and that the only way to detect it is to be free to inquire. And we know that as long as men are free to ask what they must, free to say what they think, free to think what they will, freedom can never be lost, and science can never regress.

- Robert Oppenheimer (1904-1967), American theoretical physicist

 Tolerance implies no lack of commitment to one's own beliefs. Rather it condemns the oppression or persecution of others.

- John F. Kennedy (1917-1963), 35th President of the United States, October 10, 1960

 I keep my ideals, because in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart.

- Anne Frank (1929-1945), author of The Diary of a Young Girl, 1942-1944, entry dated July 15, 1944

 WHAT is tolerance? it is the consequence of humanity. We are all formed of frailty and error; let us pardon reciprocally each other's folly--that is the first law of nature.

- Voltaire (1694-1778), French Enlightenment writer, historian, and philosopher, 1764

 The open society is one in which men have learned to be to some extent critical of taboos, and to base decisions on the authority of their own intelligence.

- Karl Popper (1902-1994), Austrian-British philosopher, The Open Society and its Enemies, 1945

 First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

- Martin Niemöller (1892-1984), German anti-Nazi theologian and Lutheran pastor, January 6, 1946

 Tolerance and patience should not be read as signs of weakness. They are signs of strength.

- 14th Dalai Lama (1935-present), spiritual leader of Tibet, September 21, 2012

 To build a future you have to know the past.

- Otto Frank (1889-1980), Holocaust survivor who was a German-born businessman and father of Anne and Margot Frank, 1967

 I have no animosity towards anyone. Whoever displays human dignity, regardless of their religion or faith, I bow my head before them and hold them dear.

- Masoumi Tehrani, senior Iranian cleric

 Laws alone can not secure freedom of expression; in order that every man present his views without penalty, there must be spirit of tolerance in the entire population.

- Albert Einstein (1879-1955), German-born theoretical physicist, 1940

 I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."

- Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968), American Baptist minister and leader of the American Civil Rights Movement, "I Have a Dream", August 28, 1963

 Intolerance is itself a form of violence and an obstacle to the growth of a true democratic spirit.

- Mahatma Gandhi (1969-1948), leader of Indian independence movement

 It is the enemy who can truly teach us to practice the virtues of compassion and tolerance.

- 14th Dalai Lama (1935-present), Ocean of Wisdom: Guidelines for Living, 1989

 Where in this wide world can a person find nobility without pride, friendship without envy or beauty without vanity? Here, where grace is laced with muscle and strength by gentleness confined. He serves without servility, he has fought without enmity. There is nothing so powerful, nothing less violent; there is nothing so quick, nothing more patient.

- Ronald Duncan (1914-1982)

 It is hardly possible to overrate the value, for the improvement of human beings, of things which bring them into contact with persons dissimilar to themselves and with modes of thought and action unlike those with which they are familiar... It is indispensable to be perpetually comparing [one's] own notions and customs with the experience and example of persons in different circumstances.

- John Stuart Mill (1806-1873), British philosopher, political economist and civil servant, Principles of Political Economy, 1848

 Hate. It has caused a lot of problems in this world, but it has not solved one yet.

- Maya Angelou (1928-2014), American poet and author

 Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.

- Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968), American Baptist minister and leader of the American Civil Rights Movement, Loving Your Enemies, 1957

 Many of our problems are created by ourselves based on divisions due to ideology, religion, race, resources, economic status or other factors. The time has come to think on a deeper, more human level and appreciate and respect our sameness as human beings.

- 14th Dalai Lama (1935-present), The Compassionate Life, 2001

 I think... if it is true that there are as many minds as there are heads, then there are as many kinds of love as there are hearts.

- Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910), Russian novelist, playwright, and philosopher, Anna Karenina, 1877

 I knew that to really minister to Rwanda's needs meant working toward reconciliation in the prisons, in the churches, and in the cities and villages throughout the country. It meant feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, caring for the young, but it also meant healing the wounded and forgiving the unforgivable.

- John Rucyahana (1945-present), former Rwandan Anglican bishop, The Bishop of Rwanda: Finding Forgiveness Amidst a Pile of Bones, 2007

 I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities.

- Nelson Mandela (1918-2013), South African anti-apartheid revolutionary and first black president of South Africa, I am Prepared to Die, Statement in the Rivonia Trial, Pretoria Supreme Court, April 20, 1964

 It is thus tolerance that is the source of peace, and intolerance that is the source of disorder and squabbling.

- Pierre Bayle (1647-1706), French philosopher, 1686

 A person is a person because he recognizes others as persons.

- Desmund Tutu (1931-present), South African social rights activist and retired Anglican bishop, September 7, 1986

 Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.

- Nelson Mandela (1918-2013), South African anti-apartheid revolutionary and first black president of South Africa

 We call upon all communities to be tolerant, to reject prejudice based on caste, creed, sect, colour, religion or agenda to ensure freedom and equality for women so they can flourish. We cannot all succeed when half of us are held back.

- Malala Yousafzai (1997-present), Pakistani activist for female education and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, July 12, 2013

 I am not an Athenian or a Greek, but a citizen of the world.

- Socrates (469 BC-399 BC), Greek philosopher

 Tolerance implies a respect for another person, not because he is wrong or even because he is right, but because he is human.

- John Cogley (1916-1976), author of Religion in a Secular Age, 1968

 We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant.

- Karl Popper (1902-1994), Austrian-British philosopher, The Open Society and its Enemies, 1945

 I have always strenuously supported the right of every man to his own opinion, however different that opinion might be to mine. He who denies another this right makes a slave of himself to his present opinion, because he precludes himself the right of changing it.

- Thomas Paine (1737-1809), English-American political activist, philosopher, and revolutionary, Age of Reason, 1794

 Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching.

- International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, December 16, 1966

 And if we want to achieve our goal, then let us empower ourselves with the weapon of knowledge and let us shield ourselves with unity and togetherness.

- Malala Yousafzai (1997-present), Pakistani activist for female education and Nobel Prize laureate, July 12, 2013

 If our goal is to be tolerant of people who are different than we are, then we really are aiming quite low. Traffic jams are to be tolerated. People are to be celebrated.

- Glennon Doyle Melton, Carry On, Warrior: Thoughts on Life Unarmed, April 2, 2013

 The cost of liberty is less than the price of repression.

- W.E.B Dubois (1868-1963), African American sociologist, historian, civil rights activist, John Brown, 1909

 No rational argument will have a rational effect on a man who does not want to adopt a rational attitude.

- Karl Popper (1902-1994), Austrian-British philosopher, The Open Society and its Enemies, 1945

 If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.

- Nelson Mandela (1918-2013), South African anti-apartheid revolutionary and first black president of South Africa, Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela, 1995

 Christian, Jew, Muslim, shaman, Zoroastrian, stone, ground, mountain, river, each has a secret way of being with the mystery, unique and not to be judged.

- Jalaluddin Rumi (1207-1273), 13th-century Persian poet, jurist, theologian, and Sufi mystic

 We need a little more compassion, and if we cannot have it then no politician or even a magician can save the planet.

- 14th Dalai Lama (1935-present)

 I don't believe in charity. I believe in solidarity. Charity is vertical, so it's humiliating. It goes from the top to the bottom. Solidarity is horizontal. It respects the other and learns from the other. I have a lot to learn from other people.

- Eduardo Galeano (1940-present), Uruguyan journalist, writer, and novelist, 2004

 A human being is a part of the whole, called by us "Universe," a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest—a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. The striving to free oneself from this delusion is the one issue of true religion. Not to nourish it but to try to overcome it is the way to reach the attainable measure of peace of mind.

- Albert Einstein (1879-1955), German-born theoretical physicist, 1950

 While differing widely in the various little bits we know, in our infinite ignorance we are all equal.

- Karl Popper (1902-1994), Austrian-British philosopher, Conjectures and Refutations: The Growth of Scientific Knowledge, 1963

 We all live with the objective of being happy, our lives are all different and yet the same.

- Anne Frank (1929-1945), author of The Diary of a Young Girl, 1942-1944, entry dated July, 6, 1944

 If we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them.

- Karl Popper (1902-1994), Austrian-British philosopher, The Open Society and its Enemies, 1945

 Judging others makes us blind, whereas love is illuminating. By judging others we blind ourselves to our own evil and to the grace which others are just as entitled to as we are.

- Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945), German Lutheran pastor, theologian, anti-Nazi dissident, 1995

 Even God doesn't propose to judge a man till his last days, why should you and I?

- Dale Carnegie (1888-1955), American self-help author and lecturer

 More dangerous than bayonets and cannon are the weapons of the mind.

- Ludwig Van Mises (1881-1973), leader of the Austrian School of economic thought, Liberalism, 1927

 To deny any person their human rights is to challenge their very humanity.

- Nelson Mandela (1918-2013), South African anti-apartheid revolutionary and first black president of South Africa, June 27, 1990

 We recall our terrible past so that we can deal with it, to forgive where forgiveness is necessary, without forgetting; to ensure that never again will such inhumanity tear us apart; and to move ourselves to eradicate a legacy that lurks dangerously as a threat to our democracy.

- Nelson Mandela (1918-2013), South African anti-apartheid revolutionary and first black president of South Africa, February 25, 1999

 I respect Muslims, Jews, Christians, Zoroastrians, Buddhists, Bahá’ís, etc., even non-believers who believe in the principles of humanity. I love them dearly and kiss the hands of each and every one of them.

- Masoumi Tehrani, senior Iranian cleric

 No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.

- Nelson Mandela (1918-2013), South African anti-apartheid revolutionary and first black president of South Africa, Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela, 1995

 Injustice, poverty, slavery, ignorance — these may be cured by reform or revolution. But men do not live only by fighting evils. They live by positive goals, individual and collective, a vast variety of them, seldom predictable, at times incompatible.

- Isaiah Berlin (1909-1997), Russo-British Jewish social and political theorist, philosopher and historian, Political Ideas in the Twentieth Century, Foreign Affairs, 1950

 There can be only one permanent revolution — a moral one; the regeneration of the inner man. How is this revolution to take place? Nobody knows how it will take place in humanity, but every man feels it clearly in himself. And yet in our world everybody thinks of changing humanity, and nobody thinks of changing himself

- Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910), Russian novelist, playwright, and philosopher, 1900

 How many paths are there to God? There are as many paths to God as there are souls on the Earth.

- Jalaluddin Rumi (1207-1273), 13th-century Persian poet, jurist, theologian, and Sufi mystic

 Where they have burned books, they will end in burning human beings.

- Heinrich Heine (1797-1856), German poet, journalist, essayist, and literary critic, Almansor, 1821

 Anger and intolerance are the twin enemies of correct understanding.

- Mahatma Gandhi (1969-1948), leader of Indian independence movement


About Tavaana

Tavaana: E-Learning Institute for Iranian Civil Society is Iran’s pioneer e-learning institute. Tavaana – meaning ‘empowered’ and ‘capable’ in Persian – was launched on May 17, 2010 with a mission to support active citizenship and civic leadership in Iran through a multi-platform civic education and civil society capacity building program. Tavaana holds a vision for a free and open Iranian society, one in which each and every Iranian enjoys equality, justice and the full spectrum of civil and political liberties.

About The Tolerance Project

The Tolerance Project aims to inspire conscience, pluralism, religious freedom, and celebration of difference. Using an array of educational materials in Arabic, Persian, and English, The Tolerance Project emphasizes the capacity of each and every individual to counter hate, and imparts the benefits of living in tolerant, open societies. The Tolerance Project educates to prevent persecution and genocide, cultivating the basis for vibrant and stable societies in the broader Middle East.