When the 9/11 museum opens on May 21, the documentary “The Rise of Al-Qaeda” will play on loop, but an interfaith panel and an imam disagree with the documentary’s portrayal of Islam.
The documentary is less than seven minutes long and is a small feature in the museum. It’s narrated by NBC News anchor Brian Williams and features images of terrorist training camps and al-Qaeda attacks.
Recently, an interfaith advisory group was shown the documentary, and they did not like what they saw. The group asked that changes be made to the narrative but the museum chose not to take their advice. The group’s only imam resigned in protest of the museum’s decision.
Sheikh Mostafa Elazabawy, an imam from Masjid Manhattan, wrote a letter to the museum’s director, saying the film would “greatly offend our local Muslim believers as well as any foreign Muslim visitor to the museum,” and that “unsophisticated visitors who do not understand the difference between Al Qaeda and Muslims may come away with a prejudiced view of Islam.”
The 9/11 museum isn’t budging. Joseph C. Daniels, president of the non-profit behind the museum, said, “We had a very heavy responsibility to be true to the facts, to be objective, and in no way smear an entire religion when we are talking about a terrorist group.” But some scholars don’t agree.
Akbar Ahmed, chairman of the Islamic studies department at American University, said the use of the terms “Islamist” and “jihadist” in the documentary is problematic because most visitors are “simply going to say Islamist means Muslims, jihadist means Muslims.”
Dr. Ahmed said the 9/11 terrorists need to be condemned and “remembered for what they did,” but he doesn’t want “one and a half billion people who had nothing to do with these actions” forever associated with 9/11.