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Muslim advocates amplify their concerns about Sept. 11 museum film as opening nears

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NEW YORK, N.Y. - Muslim advocates and scholars are stepping up pressure on the Sept. 11 museum to edit or at least let more scholars see a documentary movie exhibit about al-Qaida before the museum's opening this month.

Muslim groups began expressing concerns after members of the museum's interfaith clergy advisory panel raised alarms last month that the movie unfairly links Islam and terrorism. One member resigned in protest.

Now the Council on American-Islamic Relations' New York chapter has asked the public to send letters to officials urging the removal of any "anti-Islamic terminology." Meanwhile, about 400 history and religion professors and executives from other museums asked the National Sept. 11 Memorial Museum to let a broad scholarly group evaluate the brief movie.

"Labels to describe organizations such as al-Qaeda are heavily disputed among academics, and in a public environment, without proper explanation and historical context, these terms could easily mislead and assign collective responsibility to Muslims and Islam," they wrote.

A museum spokesman had no immediate comment Monday, but Executive Director Joe Daniels has said the museum stands by the scholarship underlying the brief documentary, called "The Rise of Al Qaeda" and narrated by NBC anchor Brian Williams.

Daniels said museum officials were satisfied the film was "objectively telling the story of what happened."

The interfaith clergy group, however, asked museum officials in a letter last month to re-edit the film to make it clear that not all Muslims support the terrorists who conducted the 2001 attacks, which killed thousands of people at the World Trade Center. An imam, Sheikh Mostafa Elazabawy, of the Masjid Manhattan mosque, resigned from the advisory panel over the issue, saying in a separate letter that the film, unless changed, would "greatly offend" Muslim visitors.

The museum opens May 21.

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