MEMBERS of Bahrain's Sufi community are planning a pilgrimage to Dresden, Germany, to spread their message of peace and love.
They are even prepared to sing at a Nazi concentration camp where several Jews died.
However, the trip will only go ahead if they can find sponsors before the end of this month, when they are scheduled to depart.
Leading Sufi cleric Shaikh Rashid Al Muraykhi and a number of his disciples are hoping to make the journey, Centre for Cultural Diversity director Dr Muhammad Al Zekri told the GDN.
"In 2005, I told Shaikh Rashid that there is an annual pilgrimage to Dresden for those who love peace and condemn excessive use of power," he said.
"He (Shaikh Rashid) proposed to me that we should go there and sing our religious hymns for peace and love, to pray for Allah's mercy upon the dead and to cast peace into the hearts of those who are alive - it was a wonderful response!"
The bombing of Dresden by the British Royal Air Force and the United States Army Air Force between February 13 and February 15, 1945 remains one of the more controversial Allied actions of the Second World War.
More than 3,900 tonnes of bombs and incendiary devices were dropped on Dresden, killing an estimated 40,000 civilians.
Although now fully rebuilt, Dresden's landmark cathedral the Dresden Frauenkirche has been popular among pilgrims for the past 50 years after it was almost entirely demolished in the bombings.
"It is very rare for Sufis to venture so far, they are often very regional and local - they often go to Oman or Damascus," Dr Al Zekri explained.
"But I wasn't surprised. Sufism is Sufism, but in the sense that it is such a long trip, it was certainly unexpected."
In close proximity to Dresden is the Buchenwald concentration camp, one of the first and largest of the Nazi camps.
However, if requested the Sufis are also prepared to go there to sing their message of peace and love.
"Shaikh Rashid told me that he disapproved of what happened at the concentration camp," Dr Al Zekri said.
"Killing any human being because they belong to a religious group - whether it be Jewish or Jehovah's Witness - or because they are disabled or a political prisoner is utterly wrong.
"Only an independent judicial system has the right after a thorough investigation to determine a verdict and claim that a person no longer has the right to live in society."
Shaikh Rashid said that if he and his Sufi disciples were provided with the financial means to visit Dresden, they would do their best to get the message across that the Islamic stereotype was completely unfounded.
"We would like to go at the end of July or the beginning of August and spread this message of love, but I'll be very surprised if we get the chance," Shaikh Rashid admitted.
"It is important that we do this as people will feel comforted and happy and hopefully it will break the stereotype and people will realise that there are Muslims like us.
"We will try to get the hymns translated and people who have heard about Sufism will be able to see us in person - it will be fantastic."
For more information on sponsoring the Sufi pilgrimage to Dresden, or for further literature of Sufism in general, e-mail Dr Al Zekri at [email protected] com.