The Jews Against Islamophobia Coalition deplores the refusal of the National September 11 Memorial Museum to edit its video, “The Rise of Al Qaeda,” to address the concerns expressed by its multi-faith advisory council, leading American Muslim and Arab American organizations, and community leaders.
Protests by those within these communities have highlighted, for example, both the use in the video of problematic terminology that links Islam with terrorism and the failure to contextualize al-Qaeda. As a result, the video’s current script will reinforce a dangerous falsehood at the heart of the post-September 11narrative: that all Muslims are responsible for the attacks on September 11.
We have seen this misconception play out locally and across the country. Most notable in New York City was the virulent opposition in 2010 to the proposed building of Park51, a Muslim community center and mosque, several blocks from Ground Zero. Hatred and fear of all Muslims were clear in the chants and signs of protesters, the venom that filled the airwaves of the right-wing media, the statements of conservative politicians, the attacks on Muslims and Sikhs and their institutions, and the speeches and writing of anti-Muslim ideologues. The conflation of Islam with the September 11 attackers made possible the ugly confrontations and the media circus around Park51.
This conflation has helped drive an anti-Muslim backlash throughout the United States, with hate crimes against Muslims, and those assumed to be Muslims—Arabs, as well as Sikhs and other South Asians. But the backlash is reflected in far more than the attacks on individuals, mosques, and Sikh temples, or a compilation of hate crime statistics (gathered by government agencies that have themselves been busy spying on the Muslim community, planting informers in their institutions, and infiltrating their mosques). Most significantly, this backlash has been institutionalized, with the government funding the training of public security personnel by advocates of anti-Muslim conspiracy theories, Congressional hearings reinforcing the idea that American Muslims are a major threat to the country, and states passing laws, pushed by those who demonize Islam, against the mythical threat of “Sharia law” to the U.S. judicial system.
The Jews Against Islamophobia Coalition fully supports the Muslim community and others striving to create a country in which all people are respected and safe. We believe that all institutions—but especially those, like the National September 11 Memorial Museum, that receive government funding—have a responsibility to prevent misconceptions or propaganda that contribute to hatred, discrimination, and violence against members of any group. We are aware from our own history of the consequences of stereotyping, scapegoating, and dehumanizing people and believe it is imperative that the movie be edited. We hope that the Museum will reconsider its initial refusal to follow the recommendations of its own advisory council and respond to the issues raised by Muslim and Arab American leaders.
Jews Against Islamophobia Coalition (JAIC) consists of Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), Jews for Racial and Economic Justice (JFREJ), and Jews Say No!