Islam at center of 9/11 Memorial criticism

Jim Dolan reporting
April 23, 2014 9:01:12 PM PDT
It's not even open yet, but those behind the national 9/11 museum are learning about the importance of choosing words carefully.

Right now, not everyone is sure they have.

A seven-minute video on the backgrounds of the 19 hijackers discusses their affiliation with al-Qaeda. Some who have seen the video said it focusses too much on Islam and unfairly implies an association between Islam and terrorism.

"We object to the terms 'Islamic terrorism' and 'jihadist.' There are not real terms. They're invented terms," said Peter Gudaitis, of the Interfaith Center of New York. "I don't think this is political correctness. Others may disagree."

The 19 hijackers and the men who planned the attack identified Muslim, but many Muslims said they represent a misinterpretation of the faith.

"We're challenging the museum to take another extra step in making sure there's a distinction made between Islam and the identity of the hijackers," said the Rev. Chloe Breyer, of the Interfaith Center.

The museum would not release the video to Eyewitness News, but a spokesman released a statement Wednesday.

"A major part of preserving the history of September eleventh is to show who was responsible for the monstrous attacks on America ... the brief film, within the context of the surrounding exhibits, focuses on the roots of al-Qaeda," it said. "It does not purport to be a film about Islam or in any way generalize that Muslims are terrorists."

But some said its tone and choice of words, do make generalizations. One board member even resigned over it.

"Islam as a whole is not a violent religion. We don't want to see them vilified or victimized," said Gudaitis.

Breyer said the center is just asking for more. "We're just saying, add to it a word about what Islam is for most of its adherents," she said. "We're not suggesting the story be whitewashed or sanitized."

Right now, memorial coordinators said they plan to leave the documentary as is when the exhibit opens later this year.