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Facing Backlash, Aurora Library Removes Islamophobic Display

Facing Backlash, Aurora Library Removes Islamophobic Display
The lobby of the Santori Public Library in downtown Aurora. (Steve Lord / The Beacon-News)

AURORA, Chicago – Aurora Public Library officials apologized to the community after exhibiting a poem that included an Islamophobic display encouraging violence against Muslim women.

“On behalf of the Aurora Public Library Board of Directors and staff, I sincerely apologize to the community for the offensive display in the library’s exhibit this weekend,” Library board President John Savage said, adding that he had the exhibit removed Sunday, The Daily Herald reported.

Savage said library leaders will conduct an internal review of the “people and process” that allowed the poem to be placed on public display.

“When I read the words in that display, my heart ached,” he added.

“I was disgusted by the language and saddened by the fact that every person who read it could believe this was condoned by the Aurora Public Library because it was allowed to be on display in our main branch.”

The display featured the poem “Hijab means Jihad” by Lewis University philosophy professor George Miller superimposed over a Confederate flag.

The poem, described as satire by Miller and library officials, opens with the line, “Every kid should be like my kid and snatch a hijab,” and later reads, “Hijab to me means jihad / So keep that (expletive) out of the country I love.”

Miller claimed that he wrote the poem, which was featured in an exhibit of his work titled “Placeholders: Photo-Poems,” when he learned that has students had hijabs pulled off their heads.

“The piece has been taken out of context and misrepresented on social media because people have failed to see that (it) is part of an exhibition of 50 photo-poems that speak to social justice issues,” Miller wrote in an email to the Daily Herald.

“This is a satirical piece and absolutely not anti-Muslim, but a call to bring awareness to social attitudes and injustices.”

Miller notes that a label on the display reads, “Against the backdrop of a Confederate flag, nativism, and Islamophobia are spewed in perfect harmony.”

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Aurora Muslims praised the library’s quick move to remove the “art” display.

“While the intent may have been satire, the hate poem is presented to the public without any context — intent or otherwise — and is thus indistinguishable from bare-naked incendiary hate speech that promotes violence against women and children,” Ahmed Rehab, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ Chicago office, said in a statement issued Sunday.

“This coupled with the fact that in the current environment Muslim women face actual incidents of assault and Muslim kids face regular incidents of bullying, simply for being Muslim.”

Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin also criticized the display, saying it should have never been displayed.

“The words in this display, which should never have seen the light of day in our city, were offensive, divisive and downright prejudice,” Irvin wrote in a statement issued Sunday morning.

“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.”

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