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HomeIllinois NewsAurora Public Library censors display that offends Muslim patrons

Aurora Public Library censors display that offends Muslim patrons

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From the ALA's public website 

AURORA, Illinois – Despite the American Library Association's strong anti-censorship stand, a poem on display at the Aurora Public library caused such an uproar over the weekend that the library took it down Sunday morning.

With the background of a Confederate flag, the poem title "Hijab means jihad," begins with "Every kid should be like my kid, and snatch a hijab." It went on to mock southerners with more anti-Muslim rhetoric.

The poem was satire -the use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people's stupidity or vices – the author George Miller says. He's the chair of Lewis University's Philosophy Department. 

"It wasn't meant to be incendiary," Miller told ABC7 News. 

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That's not how Aurora resident Zee Abdulla saw it, she wrote on the library's Facebook page. She said she drove to the library to see it for herself. There it was, she said.

"This piece, a poor attempt at satire, advocates criminal battery and the continued abuse of Muslim women. I spoke to the library staff about this and while polite, they told me there was nothing they could do," Abdulla wrote. 

The library's comment posted Saturday night began to veer away from the American Library Association's (ALA) anti-censorship official position after hearing so many complaints.

"A specific panel in our current art exhibit has been the topic of discussion on social media as well as within the library. The panel features a poem that some have construed as condoning violence against Muslim women," the statement said. 

"While the intent was satirical according to the poet, we are aware that this is not the message the panel is sending to our community. We want everyone to feel safe and welcome at Aurora Public Library, and we will remove the panel before we open for business tomorrow. Thank you for sharing your concerns with us and for the thoughtful discussion that has taken place."

The ALA's website defines censorship as "the suppression of ideas and information that certain persons—individuals, groups or government officials—find objectionable or dangerous. It is no more complicated than someone saying, 'Don’t let anyone read this book, or buy that magazine, or view that film, because I object to it!'

"Censors try to use the power of the state to impose their view of what is truthful and appropriate, or offensive and objectionable, on everyone else. Censors pressure public institutions, like libraries, to suppress and remove from public access information they judge inappropriate or dangerous, so that no one else has the chance to read or view the material and make up their own minds about it. The censor wants to prejudge materials for everyone."

The library's reaction was a surprise to traditional values activists, who throughout the years, have fought to get what they considered offensive sexual materials off the library shelves. Libraries have defended their patrons' rights to access sexual images on taxpayer-funded computer libraries. It wasn't until public indecency incidents were reported that some libraries chose to filter their computers. 

All the time, the ALA stood firm against using the "power of the state" to censor library resources.

But Aurora Mayor Richard Irwin found the display so offensive, that he called on the library director to remove it.

"Without question, I understand the importance of freedom of speech and the liberties we are afforded in the United States of America. I proudly served in the United States Army and fought to protect those liberties," Irwin wrote on his Facebook page. "What I will not fight to protect is someone’s right to display whatever he or she chooses to describe as 'art' at the expense of the respect and safety of members of our community.

"The words in this display, which should never have seen the light of day in our city, were offensive, divisive and downright prejudice. The display prejudged a group of people under the banner of art and satire. Furthermore, the title alone promoted assault against women underscored by verses which blatantly disrespected an entire faith community. This shouldn’t be tolerated anywhere, and it certainly isn’t tolerated in Aurora."

The issue is sure to not be settled, as more and more opinions like artist Andres Serrano, who in 1987 photographed a a crucifix in a glass container filled with urine, are raised. What is freedom of expression protected by the First Amendment and what type of expressions should never be protected from the public square?  
 
"…[F]reedom of expression comes at a price. It means putting up with people, ideas and arguments you don’t like; it means defending those who agree with you and those who don’t, even when you find them offensive," Serrano said.
 
"We have only to look to our shared human history to find that the artists and thinkers who have most advanced civilization in the direction of freedom and equality were often unpopular in their day. They questioned, they analyzed, they regularly offended. Without them we would surely be lost."
 
Most ironic is the silence from the group that Miller's piece was meant to attack – Southerners that he portrayed as mean-spirited and bigoted. 
 
Illinois Review has reached out to the ALA for an official statement. We'll update as soon as we hear back. 
 
Here's the offensive display:
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16 COMMENTS

  1. I have always thought you Shriners are vulnerable, not just by Muslims, but by attack from the Knights of Columbus.
    When I see both groups in a parade, I half-expect to see a Crusade or a Holy War break out.

  2. Richard Irvin is one of he dumbest people to ever hold public office and corrupt as they come. I am not surprised to find that he was instrumental in having it removed.
    I hope the Republicans who put him in office (Tom Cross) are happy with their choice.

  3. People really should pay more attention to the down-ballot Library Board candidates.
    Most librarians are decidedly left-wing. There is no real “diversity” in viewpoint among the library staffs.
    In the Skokie Public Library – for 8 years – they had Barack Obama’s autobiography – with his photo prominently on the cover – as a featured book, that everyone had to see, while walking up the stairs.
    Oddly, there is no “Donald Trump – Art of the Deal” in the same spot today.
    During the Bush administration – the Skokie Public Library, had a sign in their computer room which said, “We must monitor your computer use due to a Homeland Security rule, put in place by Attorney General, John Ashcroft.”
    Strangely – that sign disappeared after Obama’s Attorney General, Eric Holder, assumed power – and kept the very same law in place.
    We should vote in these library board elections and demand, that there be diversity in hiring. That is, one conservative hired, for every leftist who retires – until the ratio is – at least – 1 to 1.

  4. I served on a library board for eight years. Of that board, I was one of the only two men on it, the rest being older ladies who were easily influenced by Liberal “feel-good” politics.
    Any speaker with a college degree who appeared at one of our meetings could say ANYTHING, no matter how ridiculous, and those women would believe it.
    Those boards are more social clubs than regulatory bodies.
    Clint, the solution is for more of us to run in those elections. Meetings are once a month and not that long.

  5. I am an active Mason, Past Master of my
    lodge (head honcho). I am also a Past
    Grand Knight of a Knights of
    Columbus council. Hold memberships
    in Knight of Pythias and Independent
    Order of Odd
    Fellows (sixth generation)and
    lotsa of
    other groups. When Master of
    my Masonic Lodge, of nine officers
    FIVE were Knights
    of Columbus! And this was in the days
    when there was this silly supposed “war” between the groups.
    I have been at Masonic
    lodges in South America
    where among the others
    present were Catholic BISHOPS.
    It is a never ending source of amazement
    to me that people who belong to neither
    organizations have a panoply of “facts”
    about those groups!
    Joined another Masonic lodge in England
    where more cerebral types would enjoy
    the nonsense stories about
    “conspiracies” Illuminati! We’d laugh
    over a pint of beer pitying those who
    bought preposterous books and tapes
    about how WE control the world!

  6. Hats and Coats are for the winter. Now it is spring time.
    The same left group kills babies.
    Love Saves Lives
    Carl Lambrecht

    What the kittens does this mean?
    Love saves lives? Timothy Treadwll loved bears and ended up in one’s stomach. William Wallace loved Scottland, that too ended so well. The women who abort children, they love also, mostly themselves.