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Books on Islam Vandalized

by on December 19, 2016

Defaced books and vandalized library property is nothing new. As librarians, we have seen this occur more than we would like it to. Earlier this month, the public library I work at had a baby changing station vandalized to say, “Place sacrifice here.” It was disturbing and inappropriate, but vandalism is something that we have all unfortunately grown accustomed to. It is even more unfortunate when patrons decide to deface books because they do not like the content. Such was the case at the Evanston Public Library in Illinois. A book titled Opening the Qur’an, which was “supposed to provide a guide for empathetic non-Muslims who want to understand more about the holy book treasured by more than a billion people,”[1] was defaced and damaged beyond repair. Librarian Lorena Neal opened the book up and discovered the words “Bullshit hatred cover to cover” were written on the inside of the book and a swastika was located right beneath the words. According to The Washington Post, “The book was one of seven at the Evanston Public Library defaced with similar graffiti — all books about Islam.”[2]

Libraries and librarians across the country stand by certain principles; foundational principles that can be found in the Library Bill of Rights. These same principles are not fully understood or respected by many patrons, however. For example, Islamophobia is a contemporary issue that does not seem to be going away anytime soon. Libraries provide resources to combat Islamophobia and Evanston Public Library is no different. They are “reminding their patrons of their core belief: that the best way to combat Islamophobia and other forms of hatred might be found between the pages of a book.”[3] It is simple: If a book is not appealing to you or goes against your own beliefs, then don’t read it. You have the right to do that. But patrons also have the right to read what they wish to read and libraries are there to provide them with open access.

The number of Muslims in America is growing. “According to a 2010 study by the Association of Religion Data Archives, the number of Muslims in America increased by 67 percent in the decade following the Sept. 11 attacks. There were 1 million Muslims in 2000; by 2010 that number increased to 2.6 million. By 2015, there were 3.3 million Muslims in the US.”[4] Libraries and Librarians like Lorena Neal need to continue upholding the standards set forth by the Library Bill of Rights. Regardless of any negative opinions by patrons, libraries should “provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues. Materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.”[5]

Books about Islam and any other religion belong in public libraries.

 


References

[1] Zauzmer, Julie. “Books about Islam were defaced in the Evanston Public Library.” The Washington Post, November 23, 2016. Accessed December 4, 2016, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2016/11/23/muslim-books-were-defaced-in-the-evanston-public-library/?utm_term=.5520a8240519.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Habib, Samra. “Islamophobia is on the rise in the US. But so is Islam.” Accessed December 4, 2016, http://www.pri.org/stories/2016-09-09/muslims-america-are-keeping-and-growing-faith-even-though-haters-tell-them-not.

[5] “Library Bill of Rights.” American Library Association. Accessed December 4, 2016, http://www.ala.org/advocacy/intfreedom/librarybill.


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