Residents in Florida were surprised and alarmed by a recent addition to the programming at their local public libraries. Instead of story time for the little ones or reading literacy for adults, these publicly funded and supported libraries are becoming a primary source for a form of diversity training that seems to be geared towards an Islamic agenda. While the program is just called “Bridging Faith,” it appears to be heavily weighted towards accepting and welcoming the traditions of the Muslim faith.
According to the documentation for this series:
“The Palm Beach County Library System is proud to offer the Bridging Faiths series. A series designed to encourage awareness and understanding of the diverse community that makes the Palm Beaches a great place to live. Through July and October, we’ll explore topics of fasting, religious attire, pilgrimages, tolerance, respect and forgiveness. Panels of religious leaders will demystify what makes each faith unique and what brings all faiths together.
The Palm Beach County Library System plays a significant role in connecting residents with one another, inspiring thoughtful and enlightening discussions, and enriching lives through the power of open access to information. The Bridging Faiths series is sponsored by the Friends of the Palm Beach County Library System.”
Without coming out and saying this is mainly focused on explaining and highlighting the need to accept the Muslim community, the topics make this very clear. The fasting, attire and other portions of the series are tied only to this faith.
Even when other religions are included, the focus is Muslim members of the community. For example, recent and upcoming programming includes:
“Sat, Aug 12, 2:00 pm
Protestantism and Christianity Today. Muhammad, Qur’an, and Islamic Civilization. Forms of Islam ‒ Diversity among Muslims.
Cultural Literacy for Religion: Everything the Well-Educated Person Should Know. (90 min.) Preregister. Shown with permission. Not rated.
Religious Attire: A Bridging Faiths Panel Discussion
Tue, Aug 22, 6:00 pm
Representatives of various belief systems will discuss the topic of religious attire. (90 min.) Preregister.
Pilgrimages: A Bridging Faiths Panel Discussion
Wed, Sep 13, 2:30 pm
Representatives of various belief systems will discuss the topic of religious journeys.
Bridging Faiths Teen Book Discussion: “Does My Head Look Big in This?” by Randa Abdel-Fattah”
It seems odd to have someone who teaches the Qur-an educating about Christianity. This is beyond troubling as this is not the first effort made by libraries across the US to teach the public about the Muslim faith.
Back in 2013, 800 libraries nationwide participated in a program to support Muslims nationwide. This program was explained as:
“The Muslim Journeys Bookshelf, a set of twenty-five books and three films about Muslim cultures and history, arrived in 800 libraries across the United States last month, serving as the centerpiece for discussion programs and talks in every state and dozens of communities.
“What we hear in the media about Muslims and their faith and culture is incomplete,” said Paula McGrew, a librarian at West Virginia Wesleyan College. “This could potentially change that perception.” Amanda Mohl, a Glen Carbon Centennial librarian in Illinois, said that library programs have the potential to emphasize common human experiences: “Through shared personal stories, we are able to see the world through someone else’s eyes, making the often abstract concept of the Muslim world less foreign and, in some cases, frightening.”
The 2013 program was made possible by a grant from The National Endowment for the Humanities via grants from the Carnegie Corporation of New York and others. It was made available to both rural and urban libraries from Maine to Hawaii as a set of “…books and films that introduce the diverse cultures of the Muslim world to interested library patrons.”
Between the books being given free of charge to 800 libraries to now programming focused only on the single faith, it seems this type of programming is less about diversity and more about making the Muslim faith more of a mainstream item. This does little to encourage anyone to understand all religions but instead clean up the general opinion of Muslims.
The biggest complaints about this particular program have come in from Florida, but it may be quietly in use at many more libraries all over the country. It is worth taking a closer look at the public programming offered at your neighborhood library.