(CNSNews.com) – Days before the National September 11 Memorial Museum opens in New York, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is stepping up its campaign to urge organizers to edit a video presentation on al-Qaeda, to remove terms such as “Islamist extremism” and “jihadism.”
An earlier CAIR initiative – a letter last month co-signed by several other Muslim and Arab-American organizations, complaining to museum directors about what they called “academically controversial terminology” – met with no success.
On Monday CAIR’s New York chapter began asking “all Americans” to lobby national and New York leaders on the issue.
A “click and send” letter made available by the chapter calls for the short video entitled “The Rise of Al-Qaeda” to be edited to remove “anti-Islamic terminology,” before the museum opens to the public next Wednesday.
The appeal is addressed to President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, New York Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles Schumer, Mayor Bill de Blasio, and City Councilwoman Margaret Chin, who represents lower Manhattan.
CAIR said in a statement that the use in the video of terms like “Islamist extremism” and “jihadism” – and the “generalizing” way in which they are used – “conflate Islam and terrorism and carry the risk of misinforming museum visitors, particularly those unfamiliar with Islam.”
“After repeated requests to correct misrepresentations, the film ignorantly implies a religion, rather than a group of criminals, was to blame for the September 11 attacks,” said CAIR-NY board member Zead Ramadan. “Instead of unifying all Americans against evil-doers, this film continues to offensively cast suspicion on faith rather address the terrorist act.”
The New York Times reported last month that the museum’s interfaith advisory group, after viewing the seven minute-long video, pressed for it to be edited, to no avail.
It quoted the president of the foundation overseeing the memorial and museum, Joseph C. Daniels, as saying, “From the very beginning, we had a very heavy responsibility to be true to the facts, to be objective, and in no way smear an entire religion when we are talking about a terrorist group.”
In a letter to museum directors dated April 21, members of the advisory group reiterated their earlier expressed concerns that “given the content of the video, museum visitors who do not have a very sophisticated understanding of the issues could easily come away equating al-Qaeda with Islam generally.”
The group’s members asked again for the video to be edited. If that was not possible, they asked for a disclaimer or statement to be included at the beginning of the film, or displayed prominently at the site of the presentation in the museum.
They suggested that it say something like: “This video in no way intends to imply that the vast majority of Muslims agree with or support the attacks perpetrated by the members of al-Qaeda. Most Muslim leaders and Muslim organizations worldwide have disavowed the ideology and actions of Al Qaeda. The Museum’s documentation of Al-Qaeda-inspired terrorism should not be mistaken for any implicit or explicit justification for racial, religious or ethnic profiling.”
On Thursday the museum and memorial will begin a six-day “dedication period,” open to 9/11 families and survivors, 9/11 rescue and recovery workers, active duty first responders from agencies that lost members in the 9/11 attacks, and lower Manhattan residents and business owners. It then opens to the general public on May 21.
The museum’s website includes a question-and-answer section.
An entry entitled, “What is an Islamist extremist?” states: “‘Islamists’ see Islam as a guiding ideology for politics and the organization of society. That is, they believe that strict adherence to religious law should be the sole basis for a country’s law, as well as its cultural and social life. While some Muslims believe this, many do not. Islamist extremists believe violence is acceptable to achieve these ends. al-Qaeda is one of many Islamist extremist groups.”