I’ve referenced Palestinian American comedian Dean Obeidallah before for his inane political commentary on so-called “Islamophobia,” but this time, he really crosses the line of indecency and disrespect to the families of 9/11 victims with a piece condemning the 9/11 Museum film about the al-Qaeda terrorists and one of its contributors.
TheDailyBeast According to Obeidallah, The National September 11 Memorial Museum should be known as a moving tribute to the victims of the terrorist attacks. Instead it has found itself engulfed in a growing dispute, with museum officials ignoring the concerns of some interfaith leaders and refusing to release a controversial video to the media, and one museum board member accused of harboring anti-Muslim sentiments. (See post below this one)
At the center of the discord is “The Rise of Al Qaeda,” the six-minute video that will be featured at the 9/11 museum, scheduled to open May 21. Museum officials say the video “does not purport to be a film about Islam or in any way generalize that Muslims are terrorists.” They also note that “Rise of Al Qaeda” does not use the term “Islamic terrorism” and describes the 9/11 terrorists as “fringe elements.”
That sounds fair. But when I spoke to members of the interfaith panel invited by the museum to view the video and provide feedback, they painted a far different picture. Peter Gudaitis, chief executive of the New York Disaster Interfaith Network and a member of the panel, said that after the screening, every single one of the 10 religious leaders present voiced concerns that the video didn’t do enough to separate Al Qaeda from mainstream Islam. He called the film in its current form “reckless.”
What’s behind the museum’s actions? A theory advanced by Gudaitis is that Debra Burlingame, one of the 11 members of the museum’s program board, which decides content, has espoused anti-Muslim views. As a result, according to Gudaitis’s theory, she may not be objective about content decisions and might be influencing museum officials in a negative way. That view was also expressed by another person involved who requested anonymity.
Burlingame is the sister of Charles Burlingame, the pilot of the American Airlines flight that crashed into the Pentagon on 9/11, killing all aboard. My research found that her past comments about Islam have been troubling, to say the least. In 2010, she issued a press release denouncing President Obama’s support of the “Ground Zero Mosque.” That place of worship, she claimed, would spread Sharia law across the United States, leading to the “subjugation of all free people, including secular Muslims who come to this country fleeing that medieval ideology, which destroys lives and crushes the human spirit.”
Burlingame also recently wrote a letter attacking the Liam Neeson film Non-Stop because the hijacker in the film is a military combat veteran and “worse, the flight’s quiet hero who comes to the aid of the protagonist, thereby saving the day, is a Muslim doctor.”
These are just a small sample of the type of statements Burlingame has made. I twice reached out to her for comment via the email address on her organization’s Web site. Her colleague did respond on Sunday, saying he would forward her my email, but she still has not answered me. I also asked the museum whether Burlingame had any input in “The Rise of Al Qaeda,” but officials did not respond to two requests for comment on the issue.
The museum’s denial of media requests to see the video and the involvement of Burlingame in content decisions, as well as the dismissal of comments from the museum’s own interfaith panel, are a distraction from its mission that could end up tarnishing the important work it is charged with doing.
The museum’s Web site promises that it will be a “collaborative process” and that many people will have a “voice in the process” in formulating its content. It’s time the museum officials live up to their own words and become more transparent and forthcoming.
Debra Burlingame interviewed about the ongoing Islamofascist threat to America: