Flashpoint Over 9-11 Museum's Film About the Attacks

An interfaith group is upset over how a short film at the 9-11 Museum in New York, site of the worst terrorist atrocity ever committed on American soil, depicts Muslims and Islam.

This is not a new fight, we have seen this movie before. The monument to Flight 93 in Shanksville, PA was originally designed to be a "Crescent of Embrace," consciously using one of Islam's central symbols. In that case, the National Park Service's original design seemed to play up Islam while never blaming its extremists, and it played down the victors who brought that aircraft down knowing that while saving others, they were sacrificing their own lives.

The row over the New York film stems from the fact that it is not a hymn to Islam, but is instead a look at what motivated the terrorists. It is simply a fact that the 9-11 hijackers were all Muslims, and that they believed they were conducting righteous jihad by murdering thousands of innocent people, some of whom were also Muslims. To leave those facts out is to create a lie. It is also a fact that most Muslims do not support the actions of the 9-11 hijackers, but there are a number of unsettling facts hanging between those. Most Muslims do support Hamas and the Palestinians broadly against Israel, so they therefore do not reject terrorism for its own sake. Support for hard core sharia Islamic law has gained support across the Islamic world over the past few years. Honor killings have come to Europe and America along with Muslim immigrants, and sharia has too. Sharia stands at direct odds with western ideas regarding separation of church and state and basic human rights. Islam is undergoing what I term a religious revival, meaning its adherents by and large are turning back to the book of their faith and trying to live by it after a few decades of some distance from it. Photos of Iran circa the 1950s show women throwing off the hijab and literally letting their hair down. Current photos show that the hijab and its religious implications have returned.

That revival is problematic, because the Koran teaches peaceful coexistence in its earlier passages, and violent conquest in others, and those passages tend to be later ones and therefore carry more weight. That's one of a handful of tricks of the light with regard to Islam, which means "peace" but also means "submission." It's also simply a fact that Muslim advocates in the West like the Council on American Islamic Relations are not the civil rights champions they claim to be, but are instead fronts for the Muslim Brotherhood, which does in fact have a long-term plan to conquer the West in the name of Islam. Thankfully, the Brotherhood is doing a fine job of discrediting itself in Egypt after the Obama administration empowered it there. Too bad the Obama administration either does not see that, or does not care.

It is simply a fact that Ayaan Hirsi Ali faces credible threats to her life to this day because she left Islam and speaks out against how mainstream Muslims treat women. It is also a fact that very few on the left in the West see fit to give her the time of day, despite all their claims to be feminists and champions of women's rights.

The problem with the museum film boils down to the use of a couple words: "jihad" and "Islamist."

“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,” Sheikh Mostafa Elazabawy, the imam of Masjid Manhattan, wrote in a letter to the museum’s director. “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.”

Museum officials are standing by the film, which they say was vetted by several scholars of Islam and of terrorism. A museum spokesman and panel members described the contents of the film, which was not made available to The New York Times for viewing.


“The terrorists need to be condemned and remembered for what they did,” Dr. Ahmed said. “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.”

But, is it honest to disassociate Islam from the terrorists of 9-11, or indeed Islamic terrorism in general? The 9-11 hijackers and the Islamic terrorists who have followed them, including the shoe bomber, Jose Padilla, the Bali bombers, the London bombers, Nidal Hasan in Texas, the Boston bombers and on and on were exhorted by Muslim preachers and theologians and ideology to commit murder. They believed that they were conducting righteous jihad. They believed that Islam is at war with the West, an idea that has taken root in Tehran, among other places. They tended to shout "Allahu Ackbar!" when they slashed throats, seized aircraft full of passengers, fired bullets, and set off deadly bombs.

These were not accidents, unfathomable mysteries or instances of "workplace violence." Something motivated the people behind these heinous deeds. What? Why are the Twin Towers fallen? The interfaith group that is protesting the museum movie would rather you not ask or answer that question.

Jonathan Tobin rightly calls the effort to change the museum film a sanitization of history.

In promoting this sanitized version of 9/11 in which Islam was not the primary motivation for the attackers, they hope to spare Muslims from the taint of the crime. But what they are really doing is disarming Americans against a potent threat that continues to simmer abroad and even at home as the homegrown extremists who have perpetrated several attacks since then, including the Boston Marathon bombing whose anniversary we just commemorated, have shown.

Rather than seek to edit Islam out of the 9/11 story, those who truly wish to promote better interfaith relations must continue to point out the dangers of these beliefs and the peril of either tolerating them or pretending that they are no longer a threat.