The Council on American-Islamic Relations has thanked a library chain in Oklahoma for using a picture of a Muslim woman in its advertising following a resident’s complaint that the library was “promoting Islam” with taxpayers’ money.
CAIR has called on people in the state, of all faiths, to celebrate the fact that the Pioneer Library System is making an effort to represent the diversity of Oklahoma.
But local Chad Grensky, from the town of Norman, had accused the public libraries of “funding and promoting Islam” on Facebook.
“We aren’t allowed to display a cross but on the vehicles provided by the state of Oklahoma we can promote Islam / Muslims with tax payers [sic] money,” the former field investigator for the US Department of Defense wrote.
“Where are the Christians, Jews, Catholics etc. No, we the tax payers are funding and promoting Islam.”
He added that he was sure that the director of the library, Ann Masters, had made a “mistake”.
“Being the director of a library you’d think she’d know the definition of equality,” he wrote.
Adam Soltani, executive director of the CAIR Oklahoma chapter, told The Independent that the complaint was “unfounded”.
“The more I did research, I saw his [Facebook] posts which were Islamophobic in nature and hateful to Islam and Muslims in general,” he said.
“He has his own agenda and is approaching the image from a divisive and hateful standpoint. This is just one of about 20 images that the library system is using to promote a diverse culture and we should celebrate that rather than condemn it.”
The executive director of Pioneer Library Systems, Ms Masters, said the images on each vehicle were unique and showed people of different ages, cultures and races, but what they had in common was reading.
She told The Independent that the purpose of the picture was to show people of different cultures, not different religions, and she said she was “concerned” that some people perceived that differently.
“The picture we used of the person in the hijab is just a woman,” she said. “If I saw her in the workplace or when I was shopping, I would think that was what she chose to wear and not that she was “promoting” religion.”
She added that the library’s lawyer confirmed they were not violating the first amendment by showing the picture on their car.
“We want to be welcoming to everyone and we try to be inclusive in every way,” she said.
Mr Grensky told The Independent that he was not racist, and simply wanted all faiths to be represented as the vehicle was a publicly-funded service.
“It’s about equality,” he said. “I don’t have anything against Islam or Muslims. But all religions – Christians, Mormons, Jews – should be depicted, if that’s the goal.”
He said he fought as a veteran for freedom of religion, and said that Islam was a religion of peace.
He took issue with a woman wearing a hijab, however.
“I’m surprised women’s rights campaigners are not all over this,” he said, referring to Shariah law. “She is illiterate. She can’t read or write. She can’t drive a car. She can’t do math.”