Aurora Public Library Removes Art Exhibit Criticized as ‘Islamaphobic’
The Aurora Public Library has removed a display some have called “Islamaphobic” following harsh public criticism from patrons, including Aurora’s mayor.
Mayor Richard Irvin sent out an official statement Sunday (April 22, 2018), calling the display “offensive, divisive and downright prejudice.”
Library Board President John Savage apologized Sunday in a Facebook post on behalf of the Aurora Public Library Board of Directors and staff.
“Once I became aware of the situation, I had it removed immediately,” Savage said. “It should never have been on display at any of the Aurora Public Library branches.”
The artwork depicts a poem over a Confederate flag titled “Hijab means Jihad” written by Lewis University philosophy professor George Miller. It was one of about 20 panels in the display.
Miller explains in the ABC 7 interview embedded above that the intent is satire and the display clearly labeled the piece as satire.
Irvin said the title of the poem “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.”
“Without question, I understand the importance of freedom of speech and the liberties we are afforded in the United States of America,” he said. “What I will not fight to protect is someone’s right to display whatever he or she chooses to describe as ‘art’ at the expense of the respect and safety of members of our community.”
Savage said he’s proud of the Aurora Public Library’s tradition of promoting literacy, learning and leadership in an equitable and inclusive way, but this display “fell far short of the mark this time – plain and simple.”
“When I read the words in that display, my heart ached,” he said. “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.”
Irvin acknowledged that that library is its own autonomous taxing body separate from the city of Aurora, but felt he had to weigh in.
“We have deliberately and intentionally worked hard this past year to strengthen connections in Aurora,” he said. “We can’t just talk the talk. We must walk the walk.”