Public Library Reports Hate Crimes Against Muslims In Graffitied Books

"None of us can afford to pretend that we are not affected by the hatred that surrounds us now," librarian Lorena Neal wrote in response.
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Books are discussed as emblems for openness, ports in rocky political storms.

So, when librarians at the Evanston Public Library in Illinois discovered that some of their books ― copies of the Quran and other Islam-centered titles ― had been vandalized, they issued a statement and opened an investigation.

In a copy of Opening the Qur’an: Introducing Islam’s Holy Book by Walter H. Wagner, a swastika was drawn in pencil along with the words, “bullshit hatred cover to cover.” It appears that the book, along with the others that were discovered to contain hate speech, hadn’t been checked out since 2014 or 2015.

Evanston librarian Lorena Neal wrote in a Facebook post last week:

Evanstonians like to think we are safe in a bubble of tolerance, but none of us can afford to pretend that we are not affected by the hatred that surrounds us now. None of us can afford to sit this out, to hope it goes away, and leaves us untouched.

Libraries ― of course ― are far from the only institutions impacted by a surge of post-election hate crimes. The New York Times reported that 2015 saw a 67 percent increase in hate crimes targeting Muslims from the previous year, and Southern Poverty Law Center reported over 700 incidents since the election, most of them occurring within the first three days after. Most of those hate crimes reported were committed in K-12 schools, businesses and universities.

In response, students and teachers have banded together to declare their schools sanctuaries; musical groups have ventured to do the same. Hopefully, going forward, libraries can be seen as sanctuaries, too ― safe spaces where everyone is welcome to visit, learn and grow.

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