Film at 9/11 Museum Sets Off Clash Over Reference to Islam

Past the towering tridents that survived the World Trade Center collapse, adjacent to a gallery with photographs of the 19 hijackers, a brief film at the soon-to-open National September 11 Memorial Museum will seek to explain to visitors the historical roots of the attacks.

The film, “The Rise of Al Qaeda,” refers to the terrorists as Islamists who viewed their mission as a jihad. The NBC News anchor Brian Williams, who narrates the film, speaks over images of terrorist training camps and Qaeda attacks spanning decades. Interspersed are explanations of the ideology of the terrorists, from video clips in foreign-accented English translations.

The documentary is not even seven minutes long, the exhibit just a small part of the museum. But it has over the last few weeks suddenly become a flash point in what has long been one of the most highly charged issues at the museum: how it should talk about Islam and Muslims.

“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,” Sheikh Mostafa Elazabawy, the imam of Masjid Manhattan, wrote in a letter to the museum’s director. “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 toward Muslim believers near the site.”

Museum officials are standing by the film, which they say was vetted by several scholars of Islam and of terrorism. A museum spokesman and panel members described the contents of the film, which was not made available to The New York Times for viewing.

The question of how to represent Islam in the museum has long been fraught. It was among the first issues that came up when the museum began asking for advice in about 2005 from a panel of mostly Lower Manhattan clergy members who had been involved in recovery work after the attacks.

Peter B. Gudaitis, who brought the group together as the chief executive of New York Disaster Interfaith Services, said the museum had rejected certain Islam-related suggestions from the panel, such as telling the story of Mohammad Salman Hamdani, a Muslim cadet with the New York Police Department who died in the attack and was initially suspected as a perpetrator.

 

CAIR’s response:

 

A coalition of American Muslim and Arab-American organizations (see list below) today urged the National September 11 Memorial Museum to consider editing a planned film presentation, “The Rise of Al Qaeda,” because it may lead viewers to wrongly conclude that that the entire faith of Islam is responsible for the 2001 terror attacks.

In an open letter to museum President Joe Daniels and Director Alice Greenwald, the organizations wrote in part:

“We have learned that you have been aware, since at least June 2013, that viewers have found this video confusing and possibly inflammatory. The museum’s own interfaith religious advisory group has repeatedly asked that this video be edited, with their concerns being dismissed.

“According to their testimony, the video:

  • Deploys haphazard and academically controversial terminology, in particular ‘Islamic’ and ‘Islamist’, to generalize, unnecessarily, about al-Qaeda’s acts of terrorism.
  • Does not properly contextualize al-Qaeda as a small organization in comparison to the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims.
  • Uses stereotypical, accented English for speakers of Arabic in translation.
  • 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.

Signatories to the letter include:

  • Samer Khalaf, President, American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC)
  • 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)
  • Sarab Al-Jijakli, President, Network of Arab-American Professionals (NAAP)

Anti-mosque group linked to Va. Beach councilman

October 17, 2013

 

A few weeks before last month’s vote on the city’s first mosque, Councilman Bill DeSteph received a 25-page PowerPoint presentation.

It came from the leader of the local chapter of ACT for America, a group concerned about radical Islamists in the United States, and alleged the proposed mosque had ties to Muslim extremists.

DeSteph, the only council member to vote against the mosque on Sept. 24, later said he had information that the facility was a threat to national security, but he declined to give details. He said he passed the information to the federal government.

That PowerPoint, other correspondence obtained by The Virginian-Pilot through the Freedom of Information Act and interviews show that DeSteph used information from the local ACT leader to help make his decision on the mosque, and that ACT hoped he would be a political voice in Richmond for its agenda. DeSteph, a former naval intelligence officer, is running as a Republican for the 82nd District seat in the House of Delegates.

Since then, DeSteph has mostly refused to comment on the mosque, citing what he calls an “ongoing investigation.”

Last month, the FBI wouldn’t comment on DeSteph’s allegations. The FBI has not responded to a request for additional comment because of the partial federal government shutdown.

This is not first time DeSteph has raised questions about mosques or Islam.

In 2010, he wrote to New York City officials objecting to plans for a Muslim community center near the World Trade Center site. The letter was nearly identical to an online petition from ACT.

At the time, DeSteph was dating the daughter of the founder of the national ACT group, Brigitte Gabriel, an author and activist. Gabriel and ACT Executive Director Guy Rodgers, a former field director for the Christian Coalition and a political consultant, live in Virginia Beach.

ACT’s local leader, Scott Saunders, wrote to the City Council to urge them to oppose the mosque. He suggested it would be tied to the Muslim Brotherhood, a group that seeks to spread Islamic law, sometimes violently, throughout the world.

A few weeks before the vote, Saunders gave DeSteph a hard copy of a PowerPoint he’d put together, DeSteph said. The presentation, called “String Theory,” is subtitled “You’ll be amazed what you find when you start to pull the little strings.”

 

The Virginian Pilot: http://hamptonroads.com/2013/10/antimosque-group-linked-va-beach-councilman

A Mayor Who Puts Wall Street First

Mr. Bloomberg was keen to take on the impossible, or at least the seemingly so. And he did. A man whose public personality came in a plain brown wrapper presided during an era of radical change and rebirth in the city, much of it fostered by his administration.

 

On March 15 of last year, at a moment when many New Yorkers found themselves increasingly disturbed by revelations that the Police Department had conducted constitutionally suspect surveillance of Muslim communities, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg made an unplanned visit to the offices of Goldman Sachs.

 

The mood had grown sour among some of the city’s most amply compensated plutocrats. The day before, Greg Smith, an executive director in the company’s equity derivatives business, announced his resignation, in an Op-Ed page article in The New York Times, declaring that the previous decade had left Goldman’s culture so steeped in avarice and self-interest, so utterly disdainful of its clients, that he no longer found it morally tenable to work there.

 

It was not simply that he was such an obvious champion of the financial industry, but also that in the city he ran he could barely brook any dissent of it.

 

The siren song of large numbers led the city to multiply the number of people that the police stopped and frisked. He was not naturally inclined to soaring oratory, so on his rare forays, the eloquence was indelible. Practically alone among elected officials in the United States, Mr. Bloomberg spoke in 2010 for the right of a Muslim group to open a mosque a few blocks from the site of the World Trade Center attacks, citing the founding principles of the nation. As he stood on Governors Island, with the Statue of Liberty visible over his shoulder, Mr. Bloomberg said: “We would be untrue to the best part of ourselves and who we are as New Yorkers and Americans if we said no to a mosque in Lower Manhattan.”

 

Last week, during a news conference in City Hall, the same mayor snarled at a judge for ruling that in searching the pockets of millions of young black and Latino men who had done nothing wrong, the police and the city had violated their constitutional rights. The moment lacked even a whisper of the grace that had made his voice so powerful on Governors Island.

 

But the Constitution protects the rights of individuals and does not recognize the laws of large numbers. It requires that the more invasive an action the authorities take against a person, the greater the cause must be.

 

Asked on Monday about a judge’s order that the police wear body cameras in five precincts for a year, to document precisely what was happening in the streets, Mr. Bloomberg seemed especially angry. A “nightmare,” he said. He insisted the test would fail: a police officer might turn his or her head and the camera would miss the action.

 

The judge said it would be an experiment, a pilot project for a year, but Mr. Bloomberg wasn’t having it. “It is a solution that is not a solution,” he declared.

The Dark Side, Carefully Masked

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — On the day after two bombs exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev tapped out an early-afternoon text message to a classmate at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth. Want to hang out? he queried. Sure, his friend replied.

In Boston, the police and the F.B.I. were mounting investigations that would end three days later with Mr. Tsarnaev’s capture and his brother’s death. But on that Tuesday afternoon, he lounged in his friend’s apartment for a couple of hours, trying to best him in FIFA Soccer on a PlayStation. That night, he worked out at a campus gym.

On Thursday afternoon, he ate with friends at a dormitory grill. By early Friday, he was the target of the largest dragnet in Massachusetts history.

To even his closest friends, Mr. Tsarnaev was a smart, athletic 19-year-old with a barbed wit and a laid-back demeanor, fond of soccer and parties, all too fond of marijuana. They seldom, if ever, saw his second, almost watertight life: his disintegrating family, his overbearing brother, the gathering blackness in his most private moments.

There were glimpses. But Mr. Tsarnaev was a master of concealment. “I have had almost two weeks to think about it, and it still makes no more sense than the day I found out it was him,” Jason Rowe, Mr. Tsarnaev’s freshman roommate, said in an interview. “Nothing seemed out of the ordinary.”

Mr. Tsarnaev was a skilled deflector of curiosity about his personal affairs. He rarely talked about his background except to say that he was Chechen or had lived in Russia. He was popular — “he had a lot of girls hitting on him,” said Junes Umarov, 18, a close friend who is also of Chechen descent — but even other close friends could not say whether he had a girlfriend. Almost no one knew anything about his family beyond a few brief sightings of his older brother, Tamerlan.

A second Chechen friend since boyhood, 18-year-old Baudy Mazaev, said that the older brother and their mother, Zubeidat Tsarnaeva, “had a deep religious epiphany” about two or three years ago. At the time, Tamerlan’s new devotion only irritated Dzhokhar, he said.

He gained American citizenship on Sept. 11, 2012, “and he was pretty excited about it,” said his first-year dorm mate, Mr. Rowe. Yet the previous March, he had written “a decade in america already, I want out,” followed in April by “how I miss my homeland #dagestan #chechnya.” And days before his citizenship ceremony, he expressed wonder at why more people did not realize that the 2001 attack on the World Trade Center “was an inside job.”

Omar Abdel Rahman: The push to free the imprisoned Islamist extremist

Before bin Laden, there was the blind sheik.  A generation ago, Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman stood as the embodiment of Islamist terrorism: A bearded, religious extremist with a trademark red and white cap and dark sunglasses who helped orchestrate the first bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993 and plotted several unrealized attacks against other New York landmarks.

Two decades of imprisonment in high-security detention centers in the United States have diminished his public profile. But the Egyptian cleric is gaining notoriety among a new generation of Muslim holy warriors, and he has become a cause celebrate for Islamist political leaders who came to power during the Arab Spring.

Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi came into office with a pledge to press the case with the United States for Abdel Rahman’s release.

And Mokhtar Belmokhtar, the leader of a jihadist brigade that attacked American and European oil workers this month at a natural gas facility in Algeria, placed Abdel Rahman’s liberty on his list of political demands.

The 74-year-old spiritual leader of the extremist Gama’a Islamiya, or the Islamic Group, Abdel Rahman has been a revered figure in Islamic extremist circles since the early 1980s, when he was charged, and acquitted, for his alleged role in the 1981 assassination of Egyptian leader Anwar Sadat.

Preached in Brooklyn, N.J.

Branded a political outlaw in his homeland, Abdel Rahman traveled to the United States in 1990, where the blind cleric preached at mosques in Brooklyn and New Jersey and, according to federal prosecutors, plotted the killing of hundreds of Americans.

He was convicted in October 1995 on charges of conspiring to “levy a war of urban terrorism against the United States,” including the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, which killed six people, and a plan to blow up the United Nations headquarters and other New York landmarks. He was later sentenced to life in prison.

Abdallah insists that his family does not condone violence, but he said that the United States is responsible for turning his father into a symbol of violent resistance.

“All those actions did not come from nothing, for it was America that pushed the Muslim youth to revolt,” Abdallah said. “America is using force, and what is taken by force must be returned by force.”

More provocative ads go up in NYC subways from group that equated Muslims with ‘savages’

NEW YORK — The group that equated Muslim radicals with savages in advertisements last year has put up another set of provocative ads in dozens of New York City subway stations.

The American Freedom Defense Initiative purchased space next to 228 clocks in 39 stations for ads with an image of the burning World Trade Center and a quote attributed to the Quran saying: “Soon shall we cast terror into the hearts of the unbelievers.”

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority said the ads went up Monday and will run for a month.

The same group paid for ads to be displayed in 10 stations in September. Those ads implied enemies of Israel are “savages.”

The MTA also sold space last year to competing advertisements that urged tolerance.

NY Sikh, Muslim workers allowed to wear religious head coverings under legal settlement

NEW YORK — New York’s Sikh and Muslim transit workers will be allowed to wear religious head coverings without a government agency logo after years of bitter legal battles that started after the 9/11 terror attacks.
A settlement between workers and New York City Transit run by the state Metropolitan Transportation Authority was announced Wednesday.
“This was the back-of-the-bus solution,” said Amardeep Singh, a Sikh-American community spokesman who compared the agency’s dealings with the employees to the pre-civil rights practice of seating black Americans at the back of public buses.
The agency issued a policy before 9/11 forcing employees wearing the traditional Sikh turbans and Muslim khimars, or headscarves, to work out of public view. Some were reassigned from bus routes to nonpublic jobs in depots.
The agency later changed the policy so that workers were allowed to wear the head coverings in public — but only with the MTA logo attached.
Shayana Kadidal, an attorney at Manhattan’s Center for Constitutional Rights, said it was “a calculated attempt” to hide certain workers “on the grounds that they ‘look Muslim’ and might alarm the public for that reason.”
Among them was a subway train operator who became a 9/11 hero, for evacuating more than 800 people from the subway near the World Trade Center by maneuvering his train to safety after power was knocked out. Above, the towers were collapsing and dust filled the station.
“The MTA honored me for driving my train in reverse away from the towers on 9/11 and leading passengers to safety,” said motorman Kevin Harrington. “I didn’t have a corporate logo on my turban on 9/11.”
The problem started when his client, Malikah Alkebulan, a Muslim bus driver, was hired several months after Sept. 11, 2001. While in training, he said, “she was told she would have to take ‘that thing’ off her head.”

Ad criticizing Muslim chaplain at WFU draws fire

An alumnus from Wake Forest University who took out an advertisement in Monday’s Winston-Salem Journal criticizing Imam Khalid Griggs, a university chaplain, said he did so as a way of pushing his alma mater into playing host to a debate on Shariah law.

In the ad, which ran the day of Wake Forest’s graduation, Donald Woodsmall claims that Griggs is a “Shariah supremacist who believes that everyone should live under Islamic Shariah law, with Islamic law replacing all man-made laws, including the U.S. Constitution.”

Griggs did not return emails and a phone call. Brett Eaton, a spokesman for Wake Forest, said the university would not comment on the ad.

For the past several months, Woodsmall has tried to get President Nathan Hatch to consent to a symposium on Shariah law, the moral code and religious law of Islam. Woodsmall believes Muslims who adhere to Shariah are a threat to national security.

His correspondences with Hatch have also included accusations that Griggs is following the ideology of the terrorists who bombed the World Trade Center.

Jeffrey Green, the Journal’s president and publisher, said: “We treated this ad the same way we do political advertising. The ad was the opinion of the individual that bought the space. He paid for it and signed his name to it.”

Temple University, Philadelphia: protestors condemn Geller and Spencer’s ‘irrational hatred’

PROTESTERS who had filled the auditorium seats at an anti-Muslim event on Temple University’s campus Monday night left the room quite empty when they marched out in opposition after the discussion began.

The organization hosting the “Islamic Apartheid Conference,” Temple University Students for Intellectual Freedom, says its mission is to introduce controversial issues often left out of mainstream debates and defends its right to political incorrectness. Panelists at the conference included Robert Spencer, contributor to the blog Jihad Watch, and Pamela Geller, famous for her hostility to the proposed construction of an Islamic community center near the site of the World Trade Center.

After walking out, more than 50 demonstrators, consisting of North Philadelphia residents, campus groups and Occupy Philly protesters, remained outside in the rain, holding signs and confronting attendees as they left the event in Ritter Hall, on Cecil B. Moore Avenue near 13th Street.

Newt Gingrich ramping up rhetoric on Islam

After a month of sparring with former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, Gingrich has returned to more comfortable territory — criticizing President Obama with language more incendiary than his rivals would dare to use.

In Georgia Tuesday, he called Obama “so pro-Islamic that [he] can’t even tell the truth about the people who are trying to kill us,” the latest in a series of recent attacks on the White House as excessively friendly to Muslims.
In last week’s debate, he used his opening remarks to promise that “no future president will ever bow to a Saudi king again.”

The focus on Islam is a return to form for Gingrich, who in May of last year warned of a United States “potentially . . .dominated by radical Islamists and with no understanding of what it once meant to be an American.” In 2010, he compared Muslims hoping to build an Islamic Center near the World Trade Center site to Nazis.

Republican candidates “believe they have nothing to lose and everything to gain by pandering to anti-Islamic bigotry,” said Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations. “It’s always been under the surface, ready to pop up at any moment.”

But it’s not certain that this strategy will win Gingrich votes so much as headlines. His May 2011 comments were not followed by a surge in polls.