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Sunday: April 2, 2006

Top Shelf Doubts

Filed under: — site admin @ 8:29 PM UTC

Commenters on several blogs have breathlessly reported that Border’s Books has a policy of putting copies of the Koran on the top shelf as a mark of respect or (depending on how you look at it) abject dhimmitude. So far as I can see, no one has bothered to check with a cross-section of actual Border’s stores to see whether this supposed policy is being followed — assuming for the moment that it exists at all. As it happens, I was in two of the three Border’s stores in Raleigh, North Carolina yesterday, and this is what I found:

  • In the North Raleigh store, translations of the Koran were on the third shelf (of eight) in the Religion section. The left-hand portion of the top shelf, the first 8 or 10 inches, was devoted to Hindu works such as the Baghavad Gita, while the remainder of the top shelf and all of the second were filled with Kabbala books. Books about Islam filled the next several shelves, starting with the Korans on the left side of the third shelf. I haven’t done a thorough check, but it seems that in its Religion sections, Border’s sensibly puts the scriptures of each religion first, followed by other works less central to the definition of the religion. The fourth shelf contained, among other things, V. S. Naipaul’s Among the Believers, a distinctly unsympathetic account of Islam. So far, no sign of any special privilege for Muslims.
  • The Border’s in Cary (a western suburb of Raleigh) had its Korans on the top shelf of a waist-high bookshelf. However, given that books about Islam are one of the larger subcategories in Religion, and that there were almost enough of them to fill a 5-shelf section, I see nothing sinister in the fact that they filled the top part of the section, with a few books about Buddhism below, and a few more starting the next bookcase to the right. Starting a major religion with a new section of shelving and putting the scriptures of that religion first in the section (mostly) devoted to it would naturally put them on the top shelf. Even without the contrary evidence of the North Raleigh store, this would be very weak evidence in favor of the rumor.

For what it’s worth, the Korans in the Columbia, Maryland Border’s were on one of the middle shelves the last time I saw them, though that was a few months ago. Perhaps they’ve been moved up since then. Perhaps every other Border’s store except the one in North Raleigh has knuckled under to sinister Wahhabi imams and moved their Korans to the top shelf, as if they were expensive liquors. Perhaps the manager of the North Raleigh store will be fired as soon as someone at Border’s headquarters reads this post. Somehow, I doubt it. It would be a good thing if the more excitable bloggers — you know who you are — would actually check to see whether a rumor is true before reporting and denouncing it. The distributed nature of the Blogosphere makes this rumor particularly easy to check. If anyone wishes to stop by other Border’s locations to see where they keep their Korans and report their findings, the comments are open.

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