The National September 11 Memorial Museum will be showing a film called “The Rise of Al Qaeda" when it opens next month. The film tries to explain the roots of the terrible attacks and why radical Islamists killed so many people that terrible day.
In an attempt to get feedback from the Muslim community on the film, which portrays Al Qaeda as radical Islamists who were on a jihad against the United States, the museum showed "The Rise of Al Qaeda" to an "interfaith advisory group of clergy members." This group included Muslim leaders.
After seeing the short film, which only lasts seven minutes, the panel universally lambasted it. At the heart of their criticisms were the portrayal of Al Qaeda as radical Islamists who believed their interpretation of their religion led them to kill civilians.
“The screening of this film in its present state would greatly offend our local Muslim believers as well as any foreign Muslim visitor to the museum,” wrote Sheikh Mostafa Elazabawy, the imam of Masjid Manhattan.
He continued, “Unsophisticated visitors who do not understand the difference between Al Qaeda and Muslims may come away with a prejudiced view of Islam, leading to antagonism and even confrontation toward Muslim believers near the site.”
Elazabawy, members of the panel, and some other scholars have denounced the film, heavily implying that the average American was not intelligent enough to know the difference between "Al Qaeda and Muslims."
Akbar Ahmed, the chairman of the Islamic studies department at American University, followed similar logic in calling for changes in the film. People are “simply going to say Islamist means Muslims, jihadist means Muslims,” he stated.
“The terrorists need to be condemned and remembered for what they did,” he continued. “But when you associate their religion with what they did, then you are automatically including, by association, one and a half billion people who had nothing to do with these actions and who ultimately the U.S. would not want to unnecessarily alienate.”
At the moment, Museum officials are standing by the film, stating that they do not believe it to be offensive.