The Aurora Public Library has removed a poem entitled “Hijab mean Jihad” by Professor George Miller, chair of a the Lewis University Philosophy Department, from a display after community members complained. The poem was one of twenty panels in an exhibit called “Placeholders: Photo-Poems”. The poem, intended to be satirical, was written over a Confederate flag. NCAC, along with the American Library Association’s Office of Intellectual Freedom, has written to the library board to express concern over the removal and offer support in the library’s plan to revise its display policies.
The poetry exhibit was displayed for around three weeks before it drew sufficient criticism to be removed from the exhibit. Once complaints on social media brought the offending poem to the attention of the library board’s president and the Aurora mayor, both expressed their support for its removal and apologized for its content. Both local press and the Chicago Tribune covered the incident widely.
As NCAC wrote to the library’s board of directors, “a library needs to be a place welcoming a diverse group of patrons. However, removing a publicly displayed work simply because it expresses unpopular views dangerously undermines free expression rights under the First Amendment and the library’s own commitment to viewpoint neutrality.”
Read the full letter and library display policy guidelines below.