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.
With the museum opening on May 21, it has shown the film to several groups, including an interfaith advisory group of clergy members. Those on the panel overwhelmingly took strong exception to the film, believing some of the terminology in it casts aspersions on all Muslims, and requested changes. But the museum has declined. In March, the sole imam in the group resigned to make clear that he could not endorse its contents.
Among those who criticized the film were, from left, the Rev. Chloe Breyer, Peter B. Gudaitis and the Rev. Ruth Yoder Wenger. Credit Damon Winter/The New York Times
“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.”