Libraries Revisit Islam; Group Distributes Books to Provide 'Balanced' View

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), October 20, 2003 | Go to article overview

Libraries Revisit Islam; Group Distributes Books to Provide 'Balanced' View


Byline: Julia Duin, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

In the tumultuous months after September 11, the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations received a consistent message.

Islam, it seemed, was not getting a fair representation in the country. The solution: promote a kinder and gentler Islam in the nation's 16,298 public libraries.

The effort, called the Library Project, was announced at a press conference in September last year. A year later, CAIR has succeeded in ordering about 6,900 sets of 18 Islamic books, tapes, DVDs and videos for libraries nationwide.

The effort coincided with librarians' frantic efforts to stock collections on anything to do with Islam, biological warfare, terrorism or Osama bin Laden - the mastermind of the September 11 attacks.

By the time the CAIR project ends, almost $2.5 million will have been spent. It's a public relations bonanza for the lobbying group, which has been criticized for not adequately condemning Muslim extremism before and after September 11. In response, CAIR began issuing an even lengthier daily compendium of favorable media reports on Islamic issues, launched a year-long "Islam in America" ad campaign and kicked off the Library Project.CAIR's books exist in pockets around Washington-area libraries, according to a survey of Web sites for libraries in the District, as well as Montgomery, Prince George's, Arlington and Fairfax counties.

Even though CAIR is based in the District, the city has received only one of the group's packets even though the Web site says 37 have been sent.

Nevertheless, "With things going on in the Middle East and the library being charged with presenting a balanced view, there are [other] Islamic materials in our collection," said Dorsey Jones, adult collections manager for D.C. libraries.

CAIR said it was investigating the matter.

Many libraries, which have endured deep budget cuts this year because of shrinking state and federal revenues, have welcomed the project. Susan Woodcock, one of the book collectors for the Fairfax County Public Library, said all its 21 branches have a set of CAIR's books.

"These books were useful and the staff was happy to have them," she said.

"We've had a very high interest here on Islamic religion and life," said Elissa Miller, collection manager for Arlington County's library system, "so we have an extensive collection of materials on this matter."

"I wouldn't have taken such a large donation had I not felt this was an area that needed additional materials," said Kay Ecelbarger, chief of collections and materials management for the Montgomery County library system. "A lot of things on that list were from mainstream sources, so they fit pretty well with the needs of librarians."

Naysayers

But some detractors say the books - which come with a set of Islamic posters - aren't presenting a balanced view on Islam. Some even call them a "Trojan horse" in the country's literary stacks.

Robert Spencer, an adjunct fellow at the Free Congress Foundation, takes exception to a book by Paul Findley, "Silent No More: Confronting America's False Images of Islam," which he says calls American Muslim Council founder Abdurahman Alamoudi an "early pioneer in Muslim political activism" but quotes none of his statements supporting terrorist groups.

"In October 2000, Mr. Alamoudi told 3,000 Muslim supporters in Washington's Lafayette Park, 'We are all supporters of Hamas [and] I am also a supporter of Hezbollah,'" Mr. Spencer said. "Alamoudi's inclusion in this book as a normal guy and a good American is a sign of the blinders people have on."

Ibn Warraq, a former Muslim who has written several books critical of the religion, said the collection gives too rosy a view of Islam.

"In a democracy, you cannot stop groups like CAIR from sending their propaganda," Mr. Warraq said. …

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