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Muslim Cleric Bemoans New York 9/11 Museum For 'Offensive' Film

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NEW YORK -- The 9/11 Memorial Museum in lower Manhattan has been lambasted by a local Muslim cleric over its plans to show visitors a short film on terrorism, a documentary the cleric said would be "offensive" to members of the Muslim faith.

Within the seven-minute film, called "The Rise of Al Qaeda", the terrorists in the 9/11 attack are referred to as "Islamists" while their successful mission to hit the World Trade centre is referred to as a "jihad".

sheik mostafa elazabawy

Sheikh Mostafa Elazabawy, centre, the imam of Masjid Manhattan

Sheik Mostafa Elazabawy, who preaches at the Masjid Manhattan and is a member of the Lower Manhattan Clergy Council that has advises the 9/11 memorial authorities, has written a letter to the museum director explaining why the film would cause "great offense".

In a letter obtained by the New York Times, he wrote: "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.

"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.”

After museum authorities refused to edit the film, Elazabawy resigned form the Clergy Council in protest.

According to the New York Daily News, the film concentrates on the period between the end of the Soviet-Afghan War and the 2001 attacks, including clips of terrorists training camps and interviews with sources that are translated with a thick foreign accent.

Yet despite the Elazabawy’s criticisms, museum spokesman Michael Frazier the film was carefully edited as not to blur the lines between Muslims and terrorists.

"This brief film, within the context of surrounding exhibits, focuses on the roots of Al Qaeda with the express purpose of helping visitors understand who perpetrated the 9/11 terrorist attacks," Frazier told the New York Daily News. "It does not purport to be a film about Islam or in any way generalize that Muslims are terrorists."

The Museum is due to open on May 21.

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