The silver lining in this gray cloud of revisionism is that, if this dispute ends up becoming a partisan flashpoint, it’ll be amusing to watch lefties scramble to denounce references to “Islamism” and “jihad” in their own previous writing about AQ. Potentially it’s a more sinister version of the “Redskins” follies, albeit with a much accelerated timeline towards Enlightenment.
Personally, I think all historical chronicles should leave the audience ignorant of the key players’ motives.
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…
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…
[F]or Mr. Elazabawy, and many other Muslims, the words “Islamic” and “Islamist” are equally inappropriate to apply to Al Qaeda, and the word “jihad” refers to a positive struggle against evil, the opposite of how they view the terrorist attacks.
“Don’t tell me this is an Islamist or an Islamic group; that means they are part of us,” he said in an interview. “We are all of us against that.”
They’ve already convinced the museum to remove a reference to “Islamic terrorism” inside the building and the museum vows that the film will be screened in a room with some infopanels on the wall about Al Qaeda’s not-all-Muslims fringiness, but officials are drawing the line at excising “Islamist” and “jihad.” How come? Because, I think, even in deeply liberal New York, that’s a whitewash too far. Everyone knows the truth so obscuring it will only make the museum look lame and cowardly. In fact, notwithstanding my jab at lefties up top, I’d be surprised if a majority of them sided with the interfaith group here instead of the museum. It’s one thing to support the Ground Zero mosque in the name of absolving Islam of any connection to 9/11. It’s another to censor Bin Laden’s own words in a building designed as an historical record of what happened and why. Or am I giving them too much credit? Someone should poll this, stat.
Reminds me a bit of the statue that was once planned of three FDNY firefighters raising the flag at Ground Zero after the attack. Remember that? The three men in the famous photo of the flag-raising were white but the statue based on the photo would have changed the racial features on two of them to symbolize the shared sacrifice of the day. That was objectionable as historical revisionism and for insinuating that American unity and resolve after the attack couldn’t be captured by three white guys, but the changes wouldn’t have obscured the basic point of the statue. The proposed changes to “Islamism” and “jihadism” would. If you can’t trust a museum devoted to 9/11 to quote the people behind the attack accurately, don’t go. It means you can’t trust anything else there either. We’ll see if they cave.
Exit question: Has anyone thought to interview big-media superstar Brian Williams about his part in the film? It’d be interesting to hear him defend the “jihad” rhetoric.