IslamismJanuary 9 2023, 18:46 pm

Minnesota Art Professor Sacked After Complaint by Muslim Student Association Over Showing Historical Images of the Prophet Muhammad in Class

US media is report­ing that a com­plaint by mem­bers of the Mus­lim Stu­dent Asso­ci­a­tion (MAS) at Ham­line Uni­ver­si­ty in St. Paul, Min­neso­ta, has result­ed in the dis­missal of one of the school’s art his­to­ry instruc­tors. Stu­dents said they felt vic­tim­ized by the dis­play of 14th and 16th-cen­tu­ry depic­tions of the Prophet Muham­mad dur­ing art class. Accord­ing to an arti­cle by Inside HigherEd:

Jan­u­ary 3, 2023 This fall, an instruc­tor at Ham­line Uni­ver­si­ty, in Min­neso­ta, was teach­ing glob­al art his­to­ry. For one class, the instruc­tor (who has not been named) was dis­cussing Islam­ic art and includ­ed for a brief peri­od (under 10 min­utes) a screen image of Muham­mad, the founder and prophet of the Mus­lim faith. The instruc­tor had warned stu­dents of her plan. (…) The reac­tion to the les­son sur­prised the instruc­tor and many oth­ers. One or more stu­dents com­plained about the image, believ­ing (as many, but not all, Mus­lims believe) that show­ing the image was wrong.

Read the rest here.

The images were shown via Zoom on Octo­ber 6, 2022. One of them depict­ed Muham­mad receiv­ing his first rev­e­la­tion from the angel Gabriel. It was tak­en from Jami’ al-Tawarikh (“Com­pendi­um of Chron­i­cles”), pub­lished in Per­sia in the ear­ly 14th cen­tu­ry. The adjunct pro­fes­sor, Eri­ka Lòpez Prater, had warned the stu­dents about the images before dis­play­ing them to the class. Speak­ing to the school news­pa­per Ham­line Ora­cle, Aram Wedatal­la, the pres­i­dent of the Ham­line Uni­ver­si­ty MSA, took offense at the images and said she felt vic­tim­ized by their display:

As a Mus­lim, and a black per­son, I don’t feel like I belong, and I don’t think I’ll ever belong in a com­mu­ni­ty where they don’t val­ue me as a mem­ber, and they don’t show the same respect that I show them.

After the class in ques­tion end­ed, Wedatal­la, togeth­er with anoth­er MSA mem­ber, com­plained to offi­cials at the school.

On Novem­ber 7, 2022, David Everett, Asso­ciate Vice Pres­i­dent of Inclu­sive Excel­lence, sent an all-cam­pus email declar­ing that a recent class­room inci­dent was “unde­ni­ably incon­sid­er­ate, dis­re­spect­ful, and Islam­o­pho­bic.” The instruc­tor was sub­se­quent­ly released from her spring-term teach­ing, with the school refus­ing to renew her teach­ing con­tract. Accord­ing to addi­tion­al report­ing by the New York Times, a Decem­ber 8, 2022, stu­dent forum at the Ham­line Uni­ver­si­ty cam­pus to dis­cuss the mat­ter fea­tured a speak­ing appear­ance by Jay­lani Hus­sein, Exec­u­tive Direc­tor of the Min­neso­ta Chap­ter of the Coun­cil on Amer­i­can-Islam­ic Rela­tions (CAIR), a lead­ing orga­ni­za­tion of the US Mus­lim Broth­er­hood. At the meet­ing, Hus­sein argued that the instruc­tor’s actions hurt Mus­lim stu­dents and stu­dents of col­or and that it had “absolute­ly no ben­e­fit,” saying:

If this insti­tu­tion wants to val­ue those stu­dents, it can­not have inci­dents like this hap­pen. If some­body wants to teach some con­tro­ver­sial stuff about Islam, go teach it at the local library.

Accord­ing to the NYT, an invit­ed Mus­lim speak­er at the meet­ing com­pared show­ing the images to teach­ing that Hitler was good.

On Decem­ber 9, Fayneese Miller, the uni­ver­si­ty’s pres­i­dent, and David Everett jus­ti­fied their actions in a let­ter to the campus:

It is not our intent to place blame; rather, it is our intent to note that in the class­room incident—where an image for­bid­den for Mus­lims to look upon was pro­ject­ed on a screen and left for many minutes—respect for the obser­vant Mus­lim stu­dents in that class­room should have super­seded aca­d­e­m­ic freedom.

Sev­er­al Ham­line pro­fes­sors and aca­d­e­m­ic and civ­il rights orga­ni­za­tions, includ­ing PEN Amer­i­ca, have con­demned Ham­line Uni­ver­si­ty’s han­dling of the mat­ter, call­ing the inci­dent “one of the most egre­gious vio­la­tions of aca­d­e­m­ic free­dom in recent mem­o­ry.” The Foun­da­tion of Indi­vid­ual Rights and Expres­sion announced it would look into the matter.

Found­ed in 1963 by Mus­lim Broth­er­hood mem­bers flee­ing their home coun­tries, the Mus­lim Stu­dent Asso­ci­a­tion was the fore­run­ner of what would become the Glob­al Mus­lim Broth­er­hood (GMB) in the US. Lead­ers of the Inter­na­tion­al Insti­tute of Islam­ic Thought (IIIT), anoth­er GMB orga­ni­za­tion in the US, played instru­men­tal roles in its found­ing and ear­ly years.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.