January 6, 2016

Customer threatens Northshire Bookstore for displaying the Qur’an



American Qur’an, illustrated by Sandow Birk, was published by Liveright in November. Image via W.W. Norton.

Denver’s Isis Books & Gifts isn’t the only bookstore to face challenges prompted by growing anti-Muslim sentiment. We previously wrote about vandalism of the independent bookstore in Denver’s Englewood neighborhood as a result of a mistaken association with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Now, following a confrontational incident with a customer over stocking copies of the Qur’an for sale, Northshire Bookstore can swap stories with Isis Books & Gifts.

As Shelf Awareness reports, on the Tuesday before Christmas, a customer “verbally abused” staff members at both Northshire’s Saratoga Springs and Manchester Center locations after seeing copies of American Qur’an, a new illustrated version of the Islamic holy book recently published by Liveright, on display at the Saratoga Springs store.

“A gentleman vociferously objected to us having a Qur’an on display in the store and berated one of my staff, and then called a few minutes later and berated her some more,” the store’s owner, Chris Morrow, told Karen Bjornland of Schenectady’s Daily Gazette. “He said that he was going to do everything in his power to put us out of business.”

After he “yelled loudly and made threats against the business” at the Saratoga location, the customer, who hasn’t been identified, allegedly called the Manchester store and made a “similar threat” over the phone, Bjornland reported.

The incident met with condemnation and an outpouring of goodwill after Morrow posted a statement on Facebook affirming the store’s mission to sell books of “all political spectra,” and varieties “without bias”:

“If terrorism succeeds in closing our minds off, terrorism has succeeded. No more shots need to be fired. If we are so insecure in our own basic goodness and faith that we can’t tolerate, let alone appreciate, the display of ‘other,’ in whatever form, then we are terrorists ourselves; we are fighting jihad against the very open society that our country’s founders fought so hard to establish.”

While the harassment at Northshire ended somewhat peacefully, it raises unsettling questions about how global events are fueling hateful, intolerant actions at the local level. It’s worth noting—and we wrote about it here—that Denver’s Isis Books & Gifts recently succumbed and changed “Isis” to “Goddess” on their outdoor sign after they faced repeated vandalism from people too ignorant—and angry—to differentiate the Egyptian goddess from the “other” ISIS.



Kait Howard is a publicist at Melville House.