A controversy erupted last week at the National September 11 Memorial Museum over exactly how the museum should depict what happened on that fateful day. So it’s time to give them a few unsolicited suggestions.
The New York Times reported that Muslim leaders in New York are angry about a film that is slated to be shown at the museum titled The Rise of Al Qaeda because it “refers to the terrorists as Islamists who viewed their mission as a jihad.” Sheikh Mostafa Elazabawy, the imam of Masjid Manhattan, wrote to the museum’s director: “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.”
Wait – aren’t the “local Muslim believers,” as well as any given “foreign Muslim visitor,” supposed to be part of the vast majority of Muslims worldwide who abhor and reject al Qaeda? So why would a film about al Qaeda offend them? Because, Elazabawy explains, “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.”
Akbar Ahmed, a professor at American University and a renowned and respected moderate Muslim, complained that people who see the film are “simply going to say Islamist means Muslims, jihadist means Muslims.” While he acknowledged that “the terrorists need to be condemned and remembered for what they did,” he warned that “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.”
But this is a sleight-of-hand: it is not the 9/11 Museum that is associating their religion with what they did. It was the 9/11 hijackers themselves who associated their religion with what they did. Elazabawy and Ahmed want the museum to ignore and whitewash that fact, and it will almost certainly comply: it has already begun to do so by removing mention of “Islamic terrorism” from its website.
In a just world, however, it would highlight these five truths: