Published September 23, 2013
A series of videos produced for the National Park Service shows American Muslim students blaming hatred against their faith on the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The story was first reported by Sancho Panza in the Independent Journal Review. The videos also promoted Islam as a pioneer in women’s rights and addressed a “general ignorance about what Islam is.”
“Islam within itself, Islam itself means peace,” the government video states. “Islam brings nothing but peace if you truly look into it.”
The video was posted on the website for the Women’s Rights National Historical Park. It was filmed at the AnNur Islamic School in Schenectady, N.Y. by a National Park Service intern.
According to the park’s website, the three-part series features children as they “discuss their experiences and challenges with negative Muslim stereotypes and assumptions.”
“Since 9/11 happened – before there wasn’t that much hate against Muslims, but since 9/11 happened people saw that and that was a big thing because a lot of people died,” a student said in the video. “They just started believing this is what they do. This is what they know. This is what they’re supposed to do. This is what their holy book tells them. This is what their Prophet told them. They think that ever since.”
The National Park Service tells me no federal taxpayer dollars were spent on the production of the videos. They said the funding came through a donation from the Friends of Women’s Rights National Historical Park.
“The videos are part of the park’s ongoing effort to share the story of the women’s rights movement and show that the fights for human and civil rights – including the freedom to worship – are struggles that continue to this day,” chief spokesman Mike Litterst said.
The National Park Service did not respond to questions about whether they’ve produced videos promoting other religions – like Christianity or Judaism.
The video praised Islam’s treatment of women – while completely ignoring the violence and discrimination many women are still facing in modern-day Islamic nations.
“People think that Islam oppresses women and there’s no equality but they’re wrong,” one student said. “There’s equity.”
The students said that in Seventh Century A.D. Islam gave women the right to be involved in politics, the right to earn and keep their money and the right to work outside the home.
“Islam gave women the right to own property, Islam gave women the right to divorce, Islam gave women the right to choose who she marries,” a student said.
Another added, “Islam gave women a whole bunch of rights that western women acquired later in the 19th and 20th centuries and we’ve had these rights since the 7th Century A.D. and it’s just not acknowledged worldwide.”
Most of the videos showed images of students sitting in a classroom defending their faith and talking about how Muslims are persecuted for their beliefs in America.
“People always say, ‘You’re Muslims. Go back to your country,’” one student said. “I mean, this is the land of the Native Americans. Everyone should go back to their country if you think about it.”
Another student blamed public perceptions about Islam on a “general ignorance about what Islam is.”
“A lot of people are against us so they’d do anything to make us look bad,” one of the youngsters said. “We’re all human beings. Just because we have a different religion doesn’t mean that we’re all difference from others.”
The videos spent considerable time on the aftermath of the terrorist attacks and how perceptions of Islam changed.
“Islam means peace, too,” a student said. ‘So we all just want to be peaceful with everybody.”
They said the main reason that non-Muslims generalize Islam is because of how the media portrays their faith.
“We’re supposed to represent our religion at all times,” a student said. “That’s something that the Prophet and God ordained on us. But especially after 9/11 we have to be super careful how we act around people, definitely watch what we say.”
The students all agreed that the terrorist attacks had something to do with how they are perceived.
“A lot of people from Christianity and Judaism and a whole bunch of other religions – a lot of them have done stuff wrong, but especially if it’s Muslim, they think of it as we’re terrorists,” one student said.
“If a Christian man does something or a Jewish man does something or an atheist man does something, nobody ever blames their religion,” another student said. “But if you see a Muslim man doing something, their religion is blamed when Islam brings nothing but peace when you truly look into it.”
Erwin Lutzer, the author of “The Cross in the Shadow of the Crescent,” told me he is quite alarmed that the National Park Service would endorse videos that seem to rewrite history.
“Islam has a very poor record when it comes to the rights of women,” Lutzer told me. “In Ontario in 2004, when the premier said Sharia law should be practiced in Muslim enclaves, it was the women from Muslim countries who joined others to oppose it. (They) said Sharia law is legalized violence against women.”
Lutzer said he was puzzled as to why the National Park Service would commend Muslims on this particular issue. He said it has no historical basis whatsoever.
“If you look at the history of Islam, there was no such thing as equal rights between men and women,” he said. “We must be very careful here when history is sometimes made out of thin air.”