A Muslim cleric resigned from the Lower Manhattan Clergy Council after officials from the 9/11 Memorial Museum refused to listen to his suggestions to change the short film about terrorism that will be shown to visitors.
Sheik Mostafa Elazabawy, the imam of Masjid Manhattan, had been advising the museum along with the rest of the members of the council. He objected to the film, which is narrated by NBC’s Brian Williams and called “The Rise of Al Qaeda,” for its descriptions of terrorists as “Islamists” carrying out “jihad.”
Elazabawy wrote a letter to the museum’s director outlining his feelings about the film.
“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,” Elazabawy wrote, “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 towards Muslim believers near the site.”
Elazabawy’s apprehension is not unwarranted, as anti-Muslim hate crimes surged over 1,600% immediately following the 9/11 attacks, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Michael Frazier, a spokesman for the museum, maintained that the directors had chosen the words carefully.
“This brief film, within the context of surrounding exhibits, focuses on the roots of Al Qaeda with the express purpose of helping visitors understand who perpetrated the 9/11 terrorist attacks. It does not purport to be a film about Islam or in any way generalize that Muslims are terrorists,” Frazier said, according to the New York Daily News.