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Evanston Public Library Books About Islam Defaced With Swastikas, Racial Slurs

By Rachel Cromidas in News on Nov 22, 2016 9:58PM

Someone has drawn swastikas, racial slurs and other offensive language on books about Islam and the Middle East at Evanston Public Library.

Library staff discovered that the books had been defaced while preparing for a lecture series on the Middle East Monday evening. Librarian Lorena Neal wrote about the incident on Facebook, which she says the library has reported to the Evanston Police Department and the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The lecture series is co-hosted by Northwestern University's Middle East and North African Studies program, according to Neal. One book about the Qur'an, pictured above, said "bullsh*t hatred cover to cover" with a swastika drawn below it written on the title page of the book. Neal said other books in the same library section were also defaced. She wrote in her post to urge readers to speak out against hatred and intolerance.

"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," she said. "None of us can afford to sit this out, to hope it goes away, and leaves us untouched. Whatever your politics, if this kind of hatred and intolerance disgusts you, speak out today."

Updated 3:55 p.m.:
Evanston Police Department's public information officer Joe Dugan told Chicagoist that eight books were defaced with derogatory remarks. Most of the books were Quran-related, he said in an email, except for one book by Glenn Beck. It's unclear when the defacement happened he said, but it was likely between June 2016 and November 21st.

"The Glenn Beck book was last checked out in June of this year, but the others have not been checked out since 2014 and 2015" Dugan wrote. "An evidence technician was called to process the books and the detectives are working on trying to narrow down a time frame, since we are currently working on a timeframe of occurrence being June 2016 until November 21st."

A statement on the Evanston Public Library website says the graffiti on the books is "troubling" and the people who did it should be found and prosecuted:

On Monday, November 21, in preparation for a program about the Qur’an with Northwestern’s Middle East and North African Studies (MENA) program, seven books about Islam and the Qur’an were discovered to have been defaced with graffiti and racist language and imagery. The discovery of graffiti in books about Islam is troubling. Free speech is one thing; defacing sacred texts and books about religion is quite another. Those who are caught defacing library materials will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
The Library provides a welcoming place to come together and discuss ideas and consider different points of view. The Evanston Public Library has a proven track record of fostering dialogue. Our partnership with Northwestern’s Middle East and North African Studies (MENA) program is an excellent example of bringing informative programs to our public library. One effective way to combat fear, hate and ignorance is to provide access to information, informed discourse, debate, and opportunities to listen to others. As our mission states: “Evanston Public Library aims to be the heart of the community by promoting the development of independent, self-confident, and literate citizens by providing open access to cultural, intellectual, technological, and informational resources.”
EPL has always provided citizens with access to information and opportunities for connection. All are welcome to join us at the library.

The full Facebook post, below:

Brian T. Edwards, a Northwestern professor and director of MENA, also wrote about the defacement on Facebook: