WASHINGTON – Joining a chorus of condemnation for a film planned to be screened at the 9/11 Memorial Museum, a coalition of American Muslim and Arab-American organizations have demanded the editing of the film presentation, saying it wrongly suggests Islam is responsible for the terror attacks.
"We have learned that you have been aware, since at least June 2013, that viewers have found this video confusing and possibly inflammatory,” the organizations said in an open letter to museum President Joe Daniels and Director Alice Greenwald, a copy of which was obtained by OnIslam.net on Thursday, April 24.
“The museum's own interfaith religious advisory group has repeatedly asked that this video be edited, with their concerns being dismissed.”
The film, The Rise of Al Qaeda, refers to the terrorists as Islamists who viewed their mission as a jihad.
Narrated by NBC News anchor Brian Williams, the less than 7 minutes documentary shows images of terrorist training camps and Qaeda attacks spanning decades.
The open letter cited testimonies given by the museum’s interfaith religious advisory group saying that the video, “Deploys haphazard and academically controversial terminology, in particular 'Islamic' and 'Islamist', to generalize, unnecessarily, about al-Qaeda's acts of terrorism.”
The letter added that the video does not properly contextualize al-Qaeda as a small organization in comparison to the world's 1.6 billion Muslims.
It also uses stereotypical, accented English for speakers of Arabic in translation and may give some viewers, especially those not familiar with the subtleties of the terminology being used, the impression that Islam, as a religion, is responsible for September 11, the coalition’s letter added.
"The existence, and your dismissal, of these concerns are extremely worrisome for our organizations,” the organizations said.
“The September 11 Memorial Museum, built with hundreds of millions of dollars of federal money, will inevitably become one of the nation's most visited cultural institutions.”
Signatories to the letter include, Samer Khalaf, President, American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) and Lena Alhusseini, Executive Director, Arab-American Family Support Center (AAFSC).
Maya Berry, Executive Director, Arab American Institute (AAI), Nihad Awad, National Executive Director, Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), Salam Al-Marayati, President, Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), Nadia Tonova, Director, National Network for Arab American Communities (NNAAC) and Sarab Al-Jijakli, President, Network of Arab-American Professionals (NAAP) have also signed.
Suffering for years of post 9/11 stigmatization for their faith, the signatories urged the Memorial Museum to avoid contributing to further discrimination.
“Many of the constituencies that our organizations represent have suffered from stigmatization, discrimination, and increased hate crimes since September 11, 2001,” the letter said.
“The September 11 Memorial Museum has explicitly pledged to project moral authority and foster a better world, and we urge you to avoid potentially contributing to further discrimination through an ill-considered and insufficiently vetted video.
"Therefore, we request (a) that we be allowed to view the video and the exhibit which it is a part of so that we can judge the context in which it is shown; (b) a meeting to discuss any concerns we may have regarding the same; and (c) that you heed the advice of your interfaith advisory council and explore editing the video before opening so that these concerns are properly addressed.”
The signatory organizations have offered to provide academic help in the reviewing process.
“Our organizations, representing tens of millions of Americans, would be willing to cooperate in facilitating academic review,” they said.
"We fully appreciate the solemn and important purpose of the September 11 Memorial Museum to honor the victims of the horrendous attacks of September 11 -- including hundreds of Arab and Muslim Americans -- and to narrate the events of that day. We sincerely wish to contribute to your institution and to be involved in the dialogue about its exhibition and programs."
Since the 9/11 attacks, US Muslims, estimated between 6-8 million, have complained of discrimination and stereotypes in the society because of their Islamic attires or identities.
A US survey has revealed that the majority of Americans know very little about Muslims and their faith.
A Gallup poll also found that the majority of US Muslims are patriot and loyal to their country and are optimistic about their future.
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