UPDATE:

The Chicago office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-Chicago), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, on Friday said that CAIR-Chicago and the Aurora Public Library are working together to “initiate healing, bring understanding, and rebuild trust” following controversy over the poem, "Hijab Means Jihad" that was pulled from an exhibit at the library last week.

In a statement, CAIR said they, "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-Hijab animosity is a serious problem."

WSPY reported last Sunday that the poem, by Lewis University professor of philosophy George Miller, was part of an exhibit called "Placeholders: Photo-Poems."  Miller's poem is written over a Confederate flag and, according to the library, is supposed to be satire.

The controversial poem prompted Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin to issue a statement calling the poem "offensive."

In his statement, Mayor Irvin stated that the words in the poem "should never have seen the light of day in our city," and Irvin went on to say that "the title alone promoted assault against women underscored by verses which blatantly disrespected an entire faith community."

Library officials would go on to pull the poem saying it has been "construed as condoning violence against Muslim women."

CAIR-Chicago, in collaboration with the library’s director, will be holding cultural sensitivity training for the library’s 100+ staff.

Aurora Public Library’s Executive Director, Daisy Porter-Reynolds offered apologies to the Muslim community and any others hurt.

ORIGINAL STORY:

In a statement issued late Saturday, officials of the Aurora Public Library said that they would take down a panel of a poem titled "Hijab Means Jihad" from an exhibit at the library.

The poem, by Lewis University professor of philosophy George Miller, was part of an exhibit called "Placeholders: Photo-Poems."  Miller's poem is written over a Confederate flag and, according to the library, is supposed to be satire.

The controversial poem prompted Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin to issue a statement on Sunday morning calling the poem "offensive."

In his statement, Mayor Irvin stated that the words in the poem "should never have seen the light of day in our city," and Irvin went on to say that "the title alone promoted assault against women underscored by verses which blatantly disrespected an entire faith community."

In a Facebook posting on Friday, an Aurora Public Library official stated:  "We have noticed some good discourse. . . We are pleased people are talking."

The Aurora Public Library statement went on to say, "Some have commented on the satirical nature of the poem."

However in a statement issued late Saturday night, library officials wrote that the poem has been "construed as condoning violence against Muslim women.  While the intent was satirical according to the poet, we are aware that this is not the message the panel is sending to our community."

Mayor Irvin has no control over the Aurora Public Library, which he called an "autonomous taxing body--separate from the City of Aurora."

However the mayor added that "those who made the final decision to allow this display--and then to simply write it off as satire--were careless and disconnected."

The poem reads:

Hijab Means Jihad

Every kid should be like my kid.

And snatch a hijab.

 

He brought it home from school

And whooped and danced around

Like an Indian with a scalp.

And told me it was his

Best day ever.

 

You know if they want to be here

They can't be disrespectful.

Hijab to me means jihad

So keep that shit out of

The country I love.

 

You want to dress different

Do it in the privacy of your own home

Not right in my face

 

Some people don't know

What America is all about

But me and my family

Are here to show them

The right way

 

City of Aurora, IL, Government

MAYOR IRVIN'S STATEMENT ON THE OFFENSIVE DISPLAY AT THE AURORA PUBLIC LIBRARY [Issued via email at 8:29 a.m., Sunday, April 22, 2018]

Yesterday, I was informed about a display at the Aurora Public Library and the amount of attention it was drawing from the community. Upon reviewing the display, I immediately contacted the chairman of the Aurora Public Library Board of Directors and asked him to have it removed.

Without question, I understand the importance of freedom of speech and the liberties we are afforded in the United States of America. I proudly served in the United States Army and fought to protect those liberties. 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.

The words in this display, which should never have seen the light of day in our city, were offensive, divisive and downright prejudice. The display prejudged a group of people under the banner of art and satire. Furthermore, the title alone 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.

To add insult to injury, staff of the Aurora Public Library promoted the display on social media and applauded the ongoing discussions about satire versus hate speech that it prompted. The post nonchalantly stated: “We are pleased that people are talking.” Clearly, this is much deeper than just talk. I and countless others were not pleased about this display and the attempt to justify it as satire. However, I am pleased that the chairman of the Aurora Public Library Board of Directors was just as concerned and ordered the display to be removed.

The Aurora Public Library is its own autonomous taxing body - separate from the City of Aurora – with a board of directors and staff responsible for the day-to-day operations and decisions. It is a dynamic institution with fantastic learning opportunities for all. In this particular case, those who made the final decision to allow this display - and then to simply write it off as satire - were careless and disconnected.

We have deliberately and intentionally worked hard this past year to strengthen connections in Aurora. From our inclusive invocations at City Council where faith communities throughout city have been represented to our interfaith initiatives and monthly ecumenical dialogues which have fostered collaborations once unimaginable, we have sparked a progressive momentum that cannot be halted by disrespect and divisiveness. We can’t just talk the talk. We must walk the walk.

There IS something happening in Aurora. It is hope, not hate. It is pride, not prejudice.

_________

Aurora Public Library, Illinois (from Facebook)

Posted Saturday night

A specific panel in our current art exhibit has been the topic of discussion on social media as well as within the library. The panel features a poem that some have construed as condoning violence against Muslim women. While the intent was satirical according to the poet, we are aware that this is not the message the panel is sending to our community. We want everyone to feel safe and welcome at Aurora Public Library, and we will remove the panel before we open for business tomorrow. Thank you for sharing your concerns with us and for the thoughtful discussion that has taken place.

________

Aurora Public Library, Illinois (from Facebook)

Posted April 20 at 10:07am · Aurora ·

We have noticed some good discourse on Facebook today about our exhibit, “Placeholders: Photo-Poems” by George Miller, the chair and professor of philosophy at Lewis University. There is a lot of discussion about Dr. Miller’s poem titled: “Hijab Means Jihad,” which is superimposed on a Confederate flag. Some have commented on the satirical nature of the poem. (Satire: Writing that exposes or ridicules conduct, doctrines or institutions either by direct criticism or more often through irony, parody, or caricature.) Others view it as “hate speech.” We are pleased that people are talking. This exhibit is part of the Fox River Arts Ramble taking place tomorrow, April 21, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Stop by to see the whole exhibit. Dr. Miller will be on hand to discuss his art with you.