Muslim receives defaced Quran from online retailer
LOS ANGELES — A Muslim woman who ordered a Quran through Amazon.com only to find profanity and religious slurs written on its cover page said Wednesday she wants an apology and a full investigation by the online retailer.
Patty Smith, a spokeswoman for the Seattle-based book retailer, said the Quran was bought directly from Bellwether Books, a small book resale company in McKeesport, through the “Marketplace” section of Amazon’s Web site.
Azza Basarudin, 30, said she received the Quran by mail May 5 after ordering it through a used books division of Amazon.com that allows customers to order directly from third-party sellers approved by the company.
When she opened the Quran, Basarudin said she found profanity and the phrase “Death to all Muslims” written on the inside page in thick black marker. Basarudin, a graduate student in women’s studies at UCLA, said she was overwhelmed by fear similar to what she felt after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks when her sister and mother were the target of anti-Muslim slurs.
“I dropped the book because I didn’t know what to do,” she said at a news conference at the Islamic Center of Southern California. “I was paralyzed after 9/11 — I couldn’t leave my house for a couple of weeks — and I realized that fear was coming back.”
Salam Al-Marayati, executive director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, said his organization wants a public apology and an investigation from Amazon.com, as well as the firing of those responsible for mailing the desecrated book. He also would like Amazon.com to pay for educational programs that foster religious tolerance.
Amazon spokeswoman Smith said the book “was not our inventory. It was nowhere in our order or fulfillment process. It was a used book purchased through a third party.”
Richard Roberts, owner of Bellwether in McKeesport, said he doubts the book was defaced by his employees. The company buys used books at bargain prices from individuals, other bookstores and libraries and then resells them through Amazon.com and other outlets.
He said before this incident, his six employees gave each book a cursory check before shipping and didn’t look inside the pages.
Roberts said Bellwether has since instituted a more stringent quality control check. Bellwether has been suspended indefinitely from selling Qurans through Amazon.com, Smith said.
“I feel awfully bad about it. It’s really a shame,” Roberts said in a phone interview yesterday.
Bellwether apologized to Basarudin by e-mail and offered to replace the book. Amazon.com also apologized, reimbursed her for the Quran’s cost and mailed Basarudin a gift certificate, Smith said.
Basarudin, who said her sister and mother were taunted for wearing headscarves after Sept. 11, wants more than a gift certificate and apology.
“I couldn’t even go near this book for a couple of days,” she said. “I feel like I’m being violated all over again because I’m a Muslim.”