Library Journal: ALA Conference 2009: Panelists Quit Session Featuring "Islam Basher"

The Chicago office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-Chicago) today announced that all other panelists scheduled to speak at an American Library Association (ALA) annual conference session July 12 on stereotyping of Islam have withdrawn in protest over the participation of Robert Spencer, which CAIR calls “one of the nation’s leading Islam-bashers.”

Dr. Marcia Hermansen, a professor of Islamic Studies at Loyola University, wrote to the ALA, “”While I heartily endorse the principles of free expression and diversity of viewpoints that are part of the ALA mission, the way in which this information session about Islam and Muslims for Ethnic and Multi-Cultural librarians was modified and politicized at the last moment raises serious concerns about the integrity of the session.”

Dr. Alia Ammar, a neuropsychologist from Hinsdale, IL, commented, “Given the substantial changes in the composition, subject, and direction of the ALA panel to which I was invited to present as well as the blatant misinformation provided regarding the purpose of the session, it would [be] untenable to present in your forum…The lack of professionalism with which this matter has been handled has been wholly disappointing as the efforts of the originally invited panelists to reach a respectable solution to the problem were simply ignored. In light of these developments, I respectfully decline to participate in the panel.”

CAIR said that none of the invited panelists were informed by the ALA that Spencer was invited to participate in the panel. ALA President Jim Rettig issued a statement today that did not address the latter question. (LJ has asked for clarification.)

“This year, more than 100 member driven committees that represent a variety of backgrounds and viewpoints coordinated and planned 250 programs that focused on various issues including this program on Islam,” Rettig said. “The withdrawal of three panelists resulted in the cancelation of a panel discussion entitled Perspectives on Islam: Beyond the Stereotyping, sponsored by the ALA’s Ethnic & Multicultural Information Exchange Round Table (EMIERT).”

“The American Library Association opposes discrimination, racism and stereotyping,” he added. “During the ALA conferences our members will participate in more than 2,000 meetings, discussion groups, and programs on various topics affecting libraries, librarians and their users.”

[July 10] The Chicago Office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-Chicago)yesterday called on the American Library Association (ALA) to drop a speaker it described as an “Islamophobe” from a program at its annual conference in Chicago.

The panelist, Jihad Watch director Robert Spencer (pictured), is scheduled to speak on July 12 as part of an Ethnic & Multicultural Information Exchange Roundtable (EMIER) session titled “Perspectives on Islam: Beyond the Stereotyping.” Spencer has authored eight books on Islam and jihad, including the 2006 New York Times best seller The Truth About Muhammad: Founder of the World’s Most Intolerant Religion.

The CAIR-Chicago call for Spencer’s removal from the program follows a July 7 open letter to the ALA and EMIER from nine librarians and scholars that read, in part: “We…are deeply concerned by ALA & EMIER’s choice of Mr. Spencer for such a panel: Mr. Spencer espouses a view of Islam as a system of belief which is essentially violent, undemocratic, totalitarian, exclusive and at war with all non-Muslims.”

Spencer contested that claim in the open letter’s comments thread, later more fully elucidating his opinion on his Jihad Watch web site. “I doubt I will be allowed to speak at the ALA convention,” he wrote, “and that will be one more proof of how deeply corrupt and thoroughly compromised such institutions are in America today.”

According to a July 9 CAIR-Chicago press release, the group’s executive director, Ahmed Rehab, has asked the ALA that Spencer’s invitation to speak be rescinded “in order to maintain the integrity of the panel and the reputation of the ALA.” The press release further refers to Spencer’s web site,, as “an anti-Islam Internet hate site” and notes that one other panelist has already withdrawn “in protest over Spencer’s participation.”

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