[Press Release] CAIR-Chicago and Aurora Public Library Join Forces to Initiate Healing


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CAIR-Chicago And Aurora Public Library Join Forces to Initiate Healing

(CHICAGO, IL., 4/27/2018) – The Chicago office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-Chicago), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, today said that CAIR-Chicago and the Aurora Public Library are working together to “initiate healing, bring understanding, and rebuild trust” following the unfortunate incident in which an anti-Muslim display was exhibited at the library.

CAIR-Chicago had condemned the exhibit stating that while the intent behind the display may have been satirical, that the display itself was presented at face-value without any such context thus working to shock and threaten viewers, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, at a time in which anti-Muslim and anti-Hijabanimosity is a serious problem.

SEE: CBS Coverage

SEE: ABC Coverage

The library responded to CAIR-Chicago’s objections as well as hundreds of letters from the public by removing the display and issuing a former apology. The library’s Communications Director resigned.

CAIR-Chicago is reporting that things have been moving in the right direction:

CAIR-Chicago Executive Director, Ahmed Rehab spoke with Aurora’s Public Library’s Executive Director who profusely expressed her apologies, as well as genuine understanding and concern. Library Board President John Savage expressed his strong regrets. CAIR-Chicago is in positive communication with Professor George Miller who wrote the poem. Rehab also spoke with City of Aurora’s mayor, Richard Irvin, and Dr. David Livingston, the President of Lewis University, where Professor Miller is employed. (The University itself has no associations with the poem or display). Rehab thanked bothleaders, both of whom have come out with strong statements of solidarity, and noted that both calls revolved around “very positive” conversations about future collaborative opportunities.

At this point, CAIR-Chicago, in collaboration with the library’s director, will be holding cultural sensitivity training for the library’s 100+ staff. CAIR-Chicago’s Asha Binbek and Saadia Pervaiz will lead the training.

“For us, this is not about ‘claiming scalps,’ to quote the unfortunate poem,” Rehab said, “to the contrary, where there is humble admission of error and a genuine desire to fix mistakes, then our strategy is to create an opportunity out of the challenge and work together to not only fix problems, but even set new standards of welcomeness.”

Aurora Public Library’s Executive Director, Daisy Porter-Reynolds reiterated that this is precisely the library’s intent:

“On behalf of my board, my staff, and myself, I offer my heartfelt apology to the Muslim community for the hurt caused by our art exhibit. I’m changing our procedures so that exhibit and display decisions will be vetted carefully by a team of staff and board members. We plan to host cultural sensitivity training for our staff in cooperation with a number of agencies including CAIR-Chicago. Looking ahead, we will also engage the community with a series of programs on race and religion in Aurora and America. I have taken feedback from the community on how we can best go about this. I intend for every one of all religions and races to feel safe and welcome at Aurora Public Library.”

“I think one of the many lessons here is to not talk for or about any particular group, while at the same time failing to take the time to them. This happens way too often. But it does not have to. Muslim women, including Hijabi women like myself, are active productive members of every community in Illinois and are ever-ready and willing to sit at any table to speak for themselves and articulate their fears, hopes and aspirations.” Asha Binbek said. “I am thankful Aurora Library acknowledged their mistakes but are also taking the time to make the library a safer, more inclusive space.”

“The cultural sensitivity training is only the first step, we envision special programs that will help the library achieve its goal of regaining the trust of patrons, especially Muslims, and increasing understanding and collaboration, and perhaps even setting new standards for others to follow,” Saadia Pervaiz said.

The training will take place in early May.

CAIR-Chicago is the Chicago office of America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to defend civil rights, fight bigotry and promote tolerance.

CONTACT: CAIR-Chicago Executive Director Ahmed Rehab, 202-870-0166, arehab@cair.comCAIR-Chicago Communications Coordinator Saadia Pervaiz, 312-212-1520, spervaiz@cair.comCAIR-Chicago Communications Coordinator Asha Binbek, 312-212-1520, abinbek@cair.com