A Hamline University art instructor was removed from her position after sharing two Renaissance depictions of the Islamic prophet Muhammad in class, according to reports.
The professor has not been named in any reports on the incident but was identified as a female in the Pioneer Press.
School administrators condemned the professor in a Nov. 7 campus-wide email, calling her behavior “undeniably inconsiderate, disrespectful and Islamophobic,” according to Hamline’s student newspaper, The Oracle.
Many Muslims today hold that their religion forbids any depiction of its founder, hence the outrage from Aram Wedatalla, president of the school’s Muslim Student Association.
“I’m like, ‘This can’t be real,’” Wedatalla, who was in the professor’s class, told The Oracle. “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.”
The professor warned students ahead of time and later apologized to Wedatalla, according to The Oracle.
“I am showing you this image for a reason. And that is that there is this common thinking that Islam completely forbids, outright, any figurative depictions or any depictions of holy personages. While many Islamic cultures do strongly frown on this practice, I would like to remind you there is no one, monothetic Islamic culture,” the professor said during the Oct. 8 online lecture, according to a recording obtained by The Oracle.
David Everett, vice president of “inclusive excellence,” confirmed with The Oracle in an article published this month that the professor is no longer employed by the university.
Several academics and organizations denounced the university’s actions this week, including Amna Khalid, a Muslim and associate professor of history at Carleton College in Minnesota.
“As a professor, I am appalled by the senior administration’s decision to dismiss the instructor and pander to the students who claim to have been ‘harmed.’ This kind of ‘inclusive excellence’ permits DEI administrators to ride roughshod over faculty knowledge,” Khalid wrote.
“But most of all, I am offended as a Muslim. In choosing to label this image of Muhammad as Islamophobic, in endorsing the view that figurative representations of the Prophet are prohibited in Islam, Hamline has privileged a most extreme and conservative Muslim point of view. The administrators have flattened the rich history and diversity of Islamic thought,” Khalid continued.
PEN America called the school’s actions “one of the most egregious violations of academic freedom in recent memory.”
“Hamline’s nonrenewal of the instructor for showing an image of Muhammad violates the instructor’s pedagogical autonomy — protected by basic tenets of academic freedom — to determine whether and how to introduce or approach material that may be challenging, upsetting, or even deeply offensive to some,” the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression wrote in a letter to the university.
Hamline University has not commented to the media on the reports.