In the tumultuous months after September 11, the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations received a consistent message.
Islam, it seemed, was not getting a fair representation in the country. The solution: promote a kinder and gentler Islam in the nation's 16,298 public libraries.
The effort, called the Library Project, was announced at a press conference in September last year. A year later, CAIR has succeeded in ordering about 6,900 sets of 18 Islamic books, tapes, DVDs and videos for libraries nationwide.
The effort coincided with librarians' frantic efforts to stock collections on anything to do with Islam, biological warfare, terrorism or Osama bin Laden — the mastermind of the September 11 attacks.
By the time the CAIR project ends, almost $2.5 million will have been spent. It's a public relations bonanza for the lobbying group, which has been criticized for not adequately condemning Muslim extremism before and after September 11. In response, CAIR began issuing an even lengthier daily compendium of favorable media reports on Islamic issues, launched a year-long "Islam in America" ad campaign and kicked off the Library Project.
CAIR's books exist in pockets around Washington-area libraries, according to a survey of Web sites for libraries in the District, as well as Montgomery, Prince George's, Arlington and Fairfax counties.
Even though CAIR is based in the District, the city has received only one of the group's packets even though the Web site says 37 have been sent.
Nevertheless, "With things going on in the Middle East and the library being charged with presenting a balanced view, there are [other] Islamic materials in our collection," said Dorsey Jones, adult collections manager for D.C. libraries.
CAIR said it was investigating the matter.
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