5 Reasons the 9/11 Museum Should Drop ‘Islamist’

The 9/11 Memorial in New York City

The 9/11 Memorial in New York City

Huff Post: by Dr. Faheem Younus: Muslim, professor, doctor and philanthropist

On May 21, the National September 11 Memorial and Museum in New York is scheduled to release “The Rise of Al Qaeda,” a seven-minute film telling the story of the attacks. Full disclosure: I have not watched the film.

But last week, the New York Times reported how American Muslims were concerned that the film uses words such as “Islamist” and “jihadist,” leaving some viewers with an impression that Islam promotes extremism. And that is troubling for a practicing Muslim like myself.

Here’s why the 9/11 museum should drop these terms from the film:

1. It’s guilt by association
An implied association of Islam with the heinous attacks of 9/11 maligns the faith of the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims. If “Islamist” means one’s admiration for the values of an Islamic system of governance, it would make the founder of Islam and his companions Islamists of the highest order. And it would make me one, too, since I cherish equality and justice as values championed by Islam. “Jihad” as an inner struggle would make me a jihadist every time I get up at night to take my toddler to the bathroom. So nuanced are these terms that even Muslim scholars disagree on their interpretation. And you want me to believe that the museum visitors will not walk away associating Islam with extremism?

2. It’s a double standard
The KKK, Army of God and Phineas Priesthood all draw inspiration from twisting Christian texts, yet no one calls them “Christianists.” No museum film tells the story of the — shall I say Christian? — roots of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing or the 1996 Olympic Park bombing in Atlanta. No one coined a term “Hinduist” for Narendra Modi, the front-runner of Indian elections, who never disputed his ties with Sangh Parivar, a Hindu political ideology.

3. It’s pejorative and broadly rejected
That the word “Islamist” has become an undercover slur in America is no secret. If you don’t want to say “these angry savages, hell-bent on enforcing Shariah law in America,” just use the shorthand “Islamists.” Acknowledging this fact in 2013, The Associated Press cautioned journalists not to use it as a synonym for Islamic fighters or extremists. And it’s not just the American Muslim groups that are concerned about the use of “Islamist” and “jihadist” in the 9/11 museum film; Jews, Christians and families of the 9/11 victims have all expressed concerns about how and why it’s used.

4. It’s harmful
“The Rise of Al Qaeda” reminds us that the roots of whether we heal or hurt often lie deep in the words we use. When politicians, televangelists and media tycoons repeatedly use such terms in voiceovers with a video of the falling World Trade Center towers, it incites people. Starting after the 9/11 attacks in 2001, the Southern Poverty Law Center reported an average of 180 anti-Muslim hate crimes — annually — through 2008. Heck, even Hindus and Sikhs have paid the price of being Muslim look-alikes.

5. It’s a misrepresentation
The current use of the word “Islamist” creates an aggressor/victim paradigm, in which the aggressor is always the Muslim and victims are always non-Muslims. American Muslims constitute approximately 1 percent of the nation’s population, while accounting for about 2 percent of the 9/11 victims (about 60 of nearly 3,000 killed were Muslims). If the film must describe the religion of the hijackers, why should it be silent about the same religion of Mohammad Salman Hamdani, a Muslim cadet with the New York Police Department who died in the attacks and was initially suspected as one of the perpetrators?

“If we don’t use the word Islamist to describe the al-Qaida in Afghanistan, Taliban in Pakistan and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, then what should we call these fanatics?” you ask. That’s not hard to answer: Call them al-Qaida fanatics, Taliban lunatics or Muslim Brotherhood extremists. Use the worst word in the dictionary since such groups violate the universal human rights; just don’t associate my faith with their actions.


Categories: Americas, Islamism, Islamists, Islamophobia

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15 replies

  1. I am not a Muslim, but I have deep respect and admiration for the religion of Islam. Yet, I do have a problem with the ideas presented in this article. Now, from everything I have read on the subject of 911, everyone of the terrorist who hijacked the planes were ‘card carrying’ Muslims.

    Many terrorist attacks that take place in this world, but not all, are done by admitted Muslims. If these terrorists were members of the Southern Baptist Convention I would certainly have cause for concern if I were a Christian.

    No, not all Muslims are terrorists, and probably the majority are not, but the fact that ANY Muslim is killing people in cold blood would concern me deeply if I were a Muslim. The media is not calling them Muslim – they are calling themselves Muslim. The man responsible for the sniper attacks in D.C. many years ago was said to pray five times a day.

    The problem, as I see it, is not that they are being called Islamist Terrorists or any similar name by the media, but the fact that they are Muslims period. The problem does not seem to be in just how the media portrays these terrorists, but what Islam as a whole is doing about it.

    Not all Catholic priests are sexual offenders, but there are Catholic priests who are. As the Bible says, a little leaven leavens the whole lump. Yes, there are Muslims out there who will kill in the name of Allah. That is an image that will affect all Muslims. Sugar coating it won’t make the problem go away. I look forward to the day when no Muslim will be connected with terrorism, and no Catholic priest will be connected to any sexual crime.

  2. alatif, if you write 3-4 line short comments and we can see what you are saying, you will have a greater chance of passing moderation.

    Some of your longish comments are repetitious and confusing and it is easier to delete them, rather than trigger a host of problems.

    I hope you can see it. Freedom of speech is not absolute and there is a famous saying “loose lips sink ships!”

  3. @ Zia Shah are a represent Muslim Ahmadiyah ?
    I bet you are not.
    If you are a good Muslim Ahmadiyah, you should stand firmly with; “love for all, and hatred none for all”. It makes difference with extremist Muslim.
    Do you know what really means?
    It means if you love all, it means accept all different race, skin, idea, thought,and what ever.
    It means also freedom of expression.
    if you do not like my respond, you have a hatred in your heart in some degree.Sugar coating it won’t make the problem go away.
    I agree, its really hard to love someone do not share your beliefs, but you have to strive harder.
    when you can do it, You feel so happy to live without hared.
    May Allah bless you.
    with all my love

  4. Man, whatever your real name is, I love you, but not all your ideas. Because, some of them are very confusing and can land many into trouble.

    What is so wrong with not loving some of your ideas, those are not mine and everyone loves his or her own ideas, whether right or wrong? This is what is called rationalization and the Holy Quran also acknowledges it.

  5. @ Zia Shah, quote–whatever your real name is, I love you, but not all your ideas.unquote
    Just like extremist Muslim ban people who does not share his beliefs or ideas..hatred stir up conflict and trouble in this world.

    Allah said; If you love Me, but you still hate people ideas, you are a big liar…

    If you love me, you should not hate my ideas, do not suggest to other to delete my ideas..

    we love each others,we have to accept the difference..it does not mean you follow me.

    Let us love each other, do not hate,will stir up trouble..

    All love

  6. We are happily reading and replying to the posts of alatif. Still he/she is uncomfortable. alatif is not happy with our replies.
    The posts are subject to moderation. If I right something wrong or disturbing, it is the duty of the moderator to control and make amendment or delete the bad part.
    I hope alatif will be happy with this forum as it is because ideas of alatif and others are being presented as much as possible.

  7. Mr.Alatif, if you proclaim:
    Hitler was a CHRISTIAN mass-murderer.
    Truman was ditto——————-.
    Serbs were ditto——————–.
    Charles Manson, John Wayne Gacy, Rev. Jim Jones,Tim McCway were all Christian criminals.
    Rest of the Christian criminals/terrorists list is too long for this occasion.
    We will not be too hard on our Christian Brothers.

  8. @ Ghulam Sarwa—quote If I right something wrong or disturbing,unquote.
    The Muslim times should learn from experience of Muslim ahmadiyah, where extremist Muslim treat Muslim Ahmadiyah unfairly years and years because they say that Muslim ahmadiyah is disturbing, wrong religion, not Islam, misguide their followers. I believe that you feel unhappy right. You want all governments treat Muslim Ahmadiyah fairly.
    If you do not like Government of Pakistan and Indonesia treat you and Muslim Ahmadiyah unfairly, you should not treat me unfairly
    You and I have the same goal namely to fight the right religious minorities, Human Right, the freedom of speak, expression and religion every where, right?
    Hopefully, from now on, please do not delete my respond, even part of my respond.Thanks
    all love

  9. Please do not delete my respond to this topic.May Allah bless you.
    From my view, my experience, this Museum is a great call to wake up Muslim from sleep around the world, that extremist Muslim use the name of Islam, and shouted -Allahu Akbar, God is Great.-
    Muslim around the world have to condemn them and to find the root why extremist Muslim killed innocent people barbarically in NWT 11/9 2001.
    I found that the extremist Muslim used some verses from Al Quran as below.
    Fight against those who believe not in Allâh, nor in the Last Day, nor forbid that which has been forbidden by Allâh and His Messenger (Muhammad SAW) and those who acknowledge not the religion of truth (i.e. Islâm) among the people of the Scripture (Extremist Jews and Christians), until they pay the Jizyah with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued. QS 9;29.
    Then kill the Mushrikûn wherever you find them, and capture them and besiege them, and lie in wait for them in each and every ambush.QS 9;5
    We have to explain to public and to all Muslim around the world that verses can not apply in the present day. These verses could be applied only the time of Prophet.
    If Muslim scholar can not explain it, extremist Muslim will never stop killing infidel, Mushrikun etc.
    Our duty now not to criticize the Museum 11/9, but we have to correct / criticize our self.
    Proverb of Prophet Dauud.
    A wise man accept criticism and thank to them, but stupid will get mad.
    All love

    • “We have to criticize our self”. Here is the main wrong opinion of ‘alatif’. We (ourselves) at TMT do not subscribe to any form of terror. Consequently we do not need to ‘criticize our self’. Like others who just like to criticize ‘alatif’ likes to take verses out of the context, quoting one verse and leaving out the others. Therefore he shows his intention of not trying to understand the context but just trying to criticize. Question to other readers of TMT: Should we stop ‘alatif’s’ comments?

  10. The response and comments should be shorter, simpler and to the point. We should know the definition of a comment and response.

  11. I wonder why my replies stating that Muslim Terrorists bandy their Muslim credentials when committing a terror strike & that is why I suppose they are called by the Press and others ISLAMIST TERRORISTS are not posted.
    I have moderated my post to save Zia Shah the trouble of doing the same.

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