Minnesota university under fire for professor’s dismissal over showing images of Prophet Muhammad


CHICAGO — A University of . Minnesota decision to fire a professor for including a depiction of . She Prophet Muhammad in a world art course has put the small. private school at the center of a debate over. How to incorporate controversial material into college courses while respecting students’ personal relationships. to the material.

Months after the images were shown in an . Online class, the chair of Hamline University’s board of trustees said . Friday that trustees are reviewing the university’s policies and its responses to . Student complaints and faculty concerns about academic freedom. Also on Friday, a national civil rights organization for. Muslims condemned the professor’s alleged behavior as Islamophobic.

The conflict began in October when adjunct professor . Erica Lopez Prater included a 14th-century. Painting depicting the Prophet Muhammad in a lesson on . Islamic art, prompting a Muslim student in. The class to complain to the university, according to media . Reports and advocacy groups supported by . The professor or student.

López Prater was aware that for many Muslims. Visual depictions of the Prophet Muhammad violated their beliefs. The course syllabus he showed in media interviews specified. That students would see images of religious figures. Including the Prophet Muhammad. The syllabus also included proposals to. Work with students who were uncomfortable viewing those images.

His goal, Lopez Prater said this week. Is to teach students about the “rich diversity” of attitudes toward such images.
“It’s very important. That we recognize the diversity within Islam and that we also respect the keen, curious minds. That come from that community and other groups, and . That we don’t codify the safest options,” he said in a video interview. With Muktdar Khan, professor of international relations at the University of Delaware. “Institutions of higher education … owe it to our students to challenge us in ways that are sometimes uncomfortable.”

Lopez Prater said she and her . Department chair began talking about her teaching a new course in September. But after the incident the chair told her “her services are no longer needed.”

Hamline’s president said the professor’s contract was not renewed after the fall semester.

Different perspectives in painting
Outside of Hamline’s campus in St. Paul. Minnesota, Muslims disagree about the incident and . The widespread academic use of the Prophet Muhammad narrative.
Jaylani Hussain, executive director of the . Minnesota chapter of the Council on. American-Islamic Relations, was among the early supporters of Hamline’s response. He said the inclusion of the film in the lesson was disrespectful to Muslim students.

“That’s a big part of why it hurt,” he said, who complained.

At a news conference organized by the group, the student whose complaint . Sparked the university’s review said Wednesday that he and other. Muslim students thought administrators acted . Aram Wedatalla told reporters that he had never seen a picture of . The Prophet Muhammad until the October class.

“It breaks my heart that . I have to stand here and tell people that something is Islamophobic and. That something actually hurts all us, not me,” she said.

The National Council on American-Islamic Relations on Friday, yet. Distanced itself from claims that Lopez Prater’s views were Islamophobic. CAIR, which describes itself as the largest civil rights organization for . Muslims in the United States, said intent, action and circumstance all matter. Minnesota,

“While we discourage . The display of visual images of the Prophet, we recognize that professors. Who analyze ancient images for an academic purpose are not . The same as Islamophobes who display such images to cause offense,” the agency said. “Based on what we know at this point, we have seen no evidence . That Professor Erica Lopez Prater acted with Islamophobic intent or engaged in conduct . That meets the definition of Islamophobia.”

Some criticized the university’s decision
The pushback to Hamline’s decision began with an online petition by an Islamic art. Scholar at the University of Michigan who said the painting is often shown and studied by. art historians, and media reports detailed. The university’s response, including an email from an official describing. She incident as Islamophobic. .

Critics included the Muslim Public Affairs Council and the Middle East Studies Association. Both of which issued statements praising the professor for. His sensitivity and commitment to teaching different attitudes toward the narrative of . The Prophet Muhammad in Islamic history. The satirical French newspaper Charlie Hebdo cartoon that led to a deadly attack in 2015.

Those who reinstated Hamline to Lopez Prater

Trustees are involved in reviewing university policy and responding to recent . Student concerns andnextt faculty responses to concerns about academic freedom,” Waters wrote. “Fulfilling our mission . Requires both maintaining academic freedom and fostering an inclusive. Respectful learning environment for our students.”

Spokeswoman did not immediately respond to messages seeking information.

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