RoundTable photo

About 60 people gathered outside the Main Library on Nov. 29 to protest the defacement of seven books about Islam and the Qur’an. The damage, graffiti and racist language and imagery, was discovered on Nov. 21, in preparation for a program about the Qur’an with Northwestern’s Middle East and North African Studies (MENA) program.

Tahera Ahmed, Director of Interfaith Engagement and Associate Chaplain at Northwestern University described the bigotry she encountered, particularly after 9/11. Still she said, “There are people with open minds and open hearts. We cannot normalize hate.”

Local businessman Steve Hagerty said the social fabric of a strong community is relationships and connections. “We’re in a position to be a leader in social justice and civil rights,” he said.

Behzad Raghian, an Evanston resident and the Financial Director at The Center for Economic Research and Social Change, said, “Let it not go unnoticed that they chose a library, of all places, to carry out this hatred. … We have to stand up against them.”

Library Director Karen Danczak Lyons thanked the community for the outpouring of support. “Every one of those books will be replaced,” she said. “The library is the place for us to come together, look at each other, listen to each other, explore different points of view and learn about each other. Public libraries have always been the bedrock of democracy,” she added.

Evanston resident Annie Zirin said, “Since the election of Trump there have been hundreds of hate crimes around the country. White racists have been emboldened by Trump to act out against immigrants, Muslims Jews, women, LGBT. But the majority of the country did not vote for this platform of vile hate and it’s vital that we visibly oppose, resist and speak out against every hate incident.”

Ms. Zirin said she organized the event “for two reasons: one because the only way to deal with bullies and cowards is to stand up to them. But second, to show our neighbors who are especially vulnerable right now that we are here for them, we are by their side. We will not stand by silently while their rights are taken away. We will defend each other and build solidarity between our communities, because solidarity is ultimately the only solution to the poison of hate.”