9/11 Museum Video Controversy: ‘Al-Qaeda Came Out of Thin Air’?

By Patrick Goodenough | May 15, 2014 | 1:53 AM EDT

Photos of the al-Qaeda 9/11 hijackers are displayed at the National Sept. 11 Memorial Museum in New York on Wednesday, May 14, 2014. (AP Photo)

(CNSNews.com) – Ahead of the 9/11 Museum’s dedication ceremony Thursday, an anti-Islamist Muslim advocate said a bid by Islamic groups to have a video display edited to remove words like “Islamist extremism” was designed to send the message that “al-Qaeda came out of thin air.”

American Islamic Forum for Democracy president Zuhdi Jasser told Fox News’ “The Kelly File” on Wednesday night that groups like the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) “want to suppress the voices of moderates – reformers like myself and other Muslims who really are working against Islamism.”

“By suppressing the language they prevent the reform and say, ‘well we wash our hands, no problem here, move along. Al-Qaeda came out of thin air, they didn’t come out of political Islam,’” he said.

“It’s our responsibility as Muslims who love our faith to defeat the ideas of jihadism and Islamism that creates this,” Jasser said, adding that that could not be done “if we don’t have a conversation that’s real and isn’t censored.”

The National September 11 Memorial Museum will be dedicated on Thursday morning in a ceremony to be attended by President Obama. It opens to the general public on May 21.

CAIR has been urging the museum directors to edit a short video called “The Rise of al-Qaeda” to remove terms like “Islamist extremism” and “jihadism.”

It argues that the words, and the way they are used in the film, “conflate Islam and terrorism and carry the risk of misinforming museum visitors, particularly those unfamiliar with Islam.”

The museum’s interfaith advisory group also called earlier for edits, without success.

According to the museum the opening lines of the video, which is narrated by NBC’s Brian Williams, begin as follows:

“This program describes the emergence of the terrorist organization that carried out the 9/11 attacks. It concentrates on a period of roughly 15 years, beginning with al-Qaeda’s founding during the Soviet-Afghan War and concluding with its rationale and planning for the attacks of 2001. The program tracks al-Qaeda’s embrace of violence and the decision of its leadership to commit mass murder, at the dawn of the 21st century.”

The only existing model of the World Trade Center is displayed at the National Sept. 11 Memorial Museum. (AP Photo)

Almost 3,000 people were killed on Sept. 11, 2001 when 19 al-Qaeda terrorists seized passenger planes and flew two of them into the World Trade Center in New York City and a third into the Pentagon. A fourth plane went down in rural Pennsylvania after passengers confronted the hijackers.

Jasser expressed frustration about the criticism.

“Seriously? We’re still having this conversation, over 13 years since 9/11? After the Arab awakening – when we see Islamist movements spreading from Pakistan to Saudi Arabia to Egypt … with radicalism from Hamas to al-Qaeda, to Boko Haram?”

CAIR, a controversial lobby group that describes itself as “America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization,” is a perennial critic of Jasser, and has tried to have him removed from his post as a member of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, an independent statutory watchdog.