Education

Petition Tried To Censor Banned Books Week Poster For Being ‘Islamophobic’

A graduate student at Valdosta State University launched a short-lived petition to censor an anti-censorship poster because it’s “Islamophobic.”

The poster, which promotes the American Library Association’s Banned Books Week and is available for purchase at the ALA online store, features a woman with a dark complexion holding open a book with “READSTRICTED” on the cover.

Elizabeth McKinstry launched the petition about two weeks ago, but it closed after garnering 328 signatures.

“This poster uses undeniably Islamophobic imagery of a woman in a niqab, appears to equate Islam with censorship, and muslim women as victims,” McKinstry writes in the petition.

The poster should be “removed immediately from the ALA Graphics store, and the ALA Graphics Store and Office of Intellectual Freedom should apologize and explain how they will prevent using discriminatory imagery in the future.”

“Whether the poster was intentionally or accidentally a racist design, it is still racist and alienating,” she wrote.

McKinstry’s LinkedIn profile says she is seeking a Master’s degree in library and information science degree from Valdosta State University and works as a library associate with the Gwinnett County Public Library near Atlanta. She also describes herself as a librarian who is a “wildly progressive, feminist killjoy.”

McKinstry is also apparently a member of the ALA: “I feel betrayed that my dues are supporting a poster that is exclusionary, and in opposition to ALA Code of Ethics and my prof values,” she wrote on Twitter.

The ALA responded to the petition in a pair of statements.

“The poster was never intended to offend or shock, nor was there any intent to include any ethnic or cultural stereotypes,” one statement explained. “The aim of the campaign is to employ the universal signage for ‘Do Not Enter’ — a red circle with a bar across it — as a visual proxy for book censorship. It is not a head covering.”

“Our design team included a Muslim woman who wears traditional dress,” ALA continued. “She was enthusiastic about the campaign and the poster design and we were pleased to work with her on it. We have shared the comments with her and she is surprised that the poster has been interpreted as traditional Muslim dress.”