Secular Right | Reality & Reason

Feb/09

21

On a hard-to-reach library shelf

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Per the Telegraph, some Muslims in Leicester, U.K.,

moved copies of the Koran to the top shelves of libraries, because they believe it is an insult to display it in a low position.

The city’s librarians consulted the Federation of Muslim Organisations and were advised that all religious texts should be kept on the top shelf to ensure equality.

So far as I can tell, most Christian viewpoints do not assign any particular value to placing the religion’s scriptures in a physically elevated location, and many would assign a positive value to making the texts accessible, which might be in tension with top-shelf placement.

Robert Whelan of the Civitas think-tank told The Daily Mail: “Libraries and museums are not places of worship. They should not be run in accordance with particular religious beliefs.”

And a spokesman for Engage, “which encourages Muslims to play a greater role in public life”, pointed out that there is no reason libraries should feel obliged to treat Christian and Muslim scriptures in a precisely equal way if believers take different views as to what constitutes respectful treatment.

Speaking of libraries, I’ll take this opportunity to suggest that readers visit my other site, Overlawyered, to check out my ongoing coverage of CPSIA, the dreadful new federal law that is encouraging used book sellers and even libraries to discard pre-1985 children’s books on the ground that some unknown percentage of them contain infinitesimal admixtures of lead in their ink and pigments. I wrote up the issue at the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal, and Daniel Kalder at the Guardian (U.K.) contributed good coverage yesterday. I’m happy to report that virtually every strain of conservative opinion, religious and secular, traditionalist and libertarian, seems to be united in agreement that this very bad law needs to be stopped now; its remaining defenders include Congressional potentate Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and the editorialists of the New York Times.

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5 comments

  • Author comment by Steel Phoenix · February 21, 2009 at 10:35 am

    You just can’t make this stuff up.

    This is great news. We need higher shelves. We need to put a copy of The God Delusion into orbit. The space race is back on. If all the zealots have to leave the planet to read their book, maybe they will.

  • Mr. F. Le Mur · February 21, 2009 at 10:59 am

    “…there is no reason libraries should feel obliged to treat Christian and Muslim scriptures in a precisely equal way…”

    That’s nonsense, of course, since, at best, both should be treated exactly as other books are treated.

    But if the ramblings of medieval epileptic psychopaths deserve any special treatment, what would that treatment be?

  • Sarah Natividad · February 21, 2009 at 5:55 pm

    There’s an easy compromise solution. Make the bookshelves about 9 feet high or more. Leave a ladder nearby. After the Muslims come by to put the Koran on the highest shelf, remove the ladder “for patron safety.”

  • Grant Canyon · February 22, 2009 at 5:47 am

    But if the ramblings of medieval epileptic psychopaths deserve any special treatment, what would that treatment be?

    The same given to bronze-age psychopaths and first-century psychpaths.

  • RWA · February 23, 2009 at 10:01 am

    When I was in college, I worked at a public library in a Canadian city with a very large Muslim population. One time, we were handed a massive shelf-shifting task, and even though it took many hours of hard, back-breaking (which is what it literally felt like) work, we were proud of ourselves when it was done. Then, one day shortly afterward, a Muslim woman came up to me to complain that the library’s copy of the Koran was now on the bottom shelf-it’s a “holy” book, and it ALWAYS goes on the top shelf, she told me. And soon enough, we had to reshuffle the shelves AGAIN just to appease superstition and multiculturalist ideology.

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