The public relations director of the OU Muslim Student Association said she was shocked by a Norman resident’s belief that a public library-owned van promotes Islamic imagery.
Sana Sandhu said Norman resident Chad Grensky’s comments, while hurtful, allowed the MSA to show it is a peaceful religious organization dedicated to dispelling the common media stereotype of Islam.
“I do commend the (Pioneer) Public Library for putting us out there and promoting us in a positive light,” Sandhu said.
Sandhu also said she thinks the controversy would not have erupted if the person on the van had been a Muslim man.
“In his eyes, a Muslim woman is someone to be pitied, and by challenging that belief, this man sees this image as wrong,” Sandhu said.
“The thing about a Muslim man is that you would not know that he’s a Muslim unless he is wearing religious attire,” she said. “However, with a (Muslim) female, her defining factor is the hijab.”
According to The Norman Transcript, Grensky wants an image of a woman wearing a hijab on a Pioneer Library System van removed. He claims the image violates the Establishment Clause, a section of the First Amendment regarding the separation of church and state.
However, Pioneer Library System’s executive director, Anne Masters, said the woman on the van does not promote Islam and is constitutional.
“We have 11 vehicles that feature people of different races, creeds, religions and disabilities,” Masters said. “Our lawyers and the ACLU have maintained that the image of the woman in the hijab is in no violation of the Establishment Clause.”
Adam Soltani, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, agrees with Masters.
“I did some research on the Pioneer Library System and saw that this was a part of one of their marketing campaigns, and basically they took 10 to 20 pictures of people from different racial backgrounds,” Soltani said. “I thought this was a really cool thing.”
Soltani also said since the library is a place for people to learn, he feels the image is an excellent way to counter Muslim stereotypes.