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Courtesy of Anida Yoeu Ali and 1700% Project.

Anida Yoeu Ali's installation was vandalized. The installation addressed hate crimes against Muslims after 9/11.

Attack on Muslim artwork at School of the Art Institute called a hate crime

by Giulia Lasagni
May 13, 2010


Courtesy of Anida Yoeu Ali and 1700% Project.

How the installation looked like before being vandalized.

Chicago-area Muslims on Thursday decried as a hate crime an act of vandalism against an art installation that itself depicts the rise of hate crimes and racial profiling against Muslims after 9/11.

Anida Yoeu Ali, creator of the installation and a graduate student at the School of the Art Institute, found her work had been vandalized Tuesday when she brought a friend to the gallery space. She later filed a report with the Chicago Police Department.  

“I noticed three very large caricatures on the wall,” Ali said.

The Chicago Police Department is investigating the attack on the installation, part of a collective exhibit at the School of the Art Institute, 33 S. State St.   

“I feel extremely violated, very disheartened,” Ali said. “For someone to enact hate upon this artwork to me says that they don’t want to hear this work, they want to silence our community.”  

Ali’s installation was composed of a white wall covered with white vinyl letters taken from hate crime reports filed in the United States by Muslims and Arabs. One part of the text contains the provocative statement, “Kill all Arabs.” This was one of the elements of the work that was defaced. During occasional live performances, participants in the performance throw things at the wall to stain it so that the words become visible.  

The attack raised quite a few concerns among the Muslim community.  

Christina Ahmad, civil rights director at the Chicago chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, in a statement called the vandalism a hate crime.  

“I hope the School of the Art Institute takes it very seriously,” said Kiran Ansari of the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago, a Muslim umbrella group. “The saddest part is that it happened in broad daylight.”  

Even if it’s not a trend in Chicago, she said, “Islamophobia exists and it’s becoming an accepted kind of racism.”  

Khalil Demir, executive director of the Zakat Foundation, a humanitarian organization, also expressed concern over what he said is a hate crime.   

“It’s scary that we cannot express ourselves,” he said.  

The solution to discrimination against Muslims, Demir said, lies ultimately in intercultural dialogue. “I’m hoping those who commit these crimes get to know the Muslim community better,” he said. 

His daughter, Amina, a history major at Chicago State University, was one of the performers who participated in Ali’s installation. She is definitely less optimistic than her father.  

She said, “I don’t think there is anything to do to prevent ignorance.”