WASHINGTON — A couple of dozen protesters gathered outside Shaw Library in protest of what they called a rise of Islamophobia, after a woman on Wednesday was ordered by a library police officer to remove her hijab.
“It was a blatant act of discrimination and abuse of power on the part of this police officer,” says Jessica Raven, who was in the library when the incident unfolded. “And now we need the library to do more than apologize, do more than just discipline a single officer, and make changes to address Islamophobia.”
Raven is the executive director of Collective Action for Safe Spaces, which an organization that speaks out against harassment.
She says the D.C. library system is minimizing what happened by calling it an “isolated incident,” adding that she wants to see more public institutions make an effort to combat Islamophobia head-on and make Muslims feel more welcome.
“I can’t come back to the library,” Raven says. “It’s upsetting. I can’t. I just don’t feel comfortable going back into the library that I come to almost every single day with my toddler. It’s not like I’m boycotting it or asking other people to boycott it. I’m just unsettled by what I saw.”
The organizers of the rally say they hope to raise the issue during a D.C. Council budget hearing April 13 that focuses on the library.
Carole Mu’min, an African-American Muslim woman who lives in Shaw, says those who live in fear are taking the wrong approach to things.
“Stop that fear talk. Know your neighbor. Speak to your neighbor,” Mu’min says.
She says living fearlessly is how Shaw was made safer from drug dealers and drug violence, and that those gathered need to stand up and not let others intimidate them.
“It’s terrible what happened. I know it is,” Mu’min says. “But we can do something about it. We are not helpless.”