Two Muslim American groups say they don’t see any evidence that a Hamline University professor in Minnesota is Islamophobic despite her use of images of Muhammed.
The university declined to renewal the contract of Professor Erika López Prater after a student complained after she showed the images in her class. Use of Muhammed’s picture is discouraged in the Muslim faith and considered offensive.
Prater posted a warning on the class syllabus about her use of a painting of Muhammed and again warned the class prior to showing it. She advised any students who would find its use offensive to feel free to leave.
The Muslim Public Affairs Council is demanding Prater’s reinstatement arguing Prater displayed the artwork tastefully with the intent of educating her students about the Muslim faith.
“As a Muslim organization, we recognize the validity and ubiquity of an Islamic viewpoint that discourages or forbids any depictions of the Prophet, especially if done in a distasteful or disrespectful manner,” the MPAC statement read, according to the Fox Bangor. “However, we also recognize the historical reality that other viewpoints have existed and that there have been some Muslims, including and especially Shīʿī Muslims, who have felt no qualms in pictorially representing the Prophet (although often veiling his face out of respect).”
In a separate statement, the Council of American Islamic Relations said “Academics should not be condemned as bigots without evidence or lose their positions without justification. We recognize that professors who analyze ancient paintings for an academic purpose are not the same as Islamophobes who show such images to cause offense.“
In an interview with the student paper The Oracle, Nur Mood, Assistant Director of Social Justice Programs and Strategic Relations at Hamline spoke out against Prater’s actions.
“This [incident is] much deeper and it’s something that in a million years, I never expected that it would happen here at Hamline. I hope this is the last time I see something similar to this. There’s a lot of apologies all happening, but the harm’s done. I think we should have started more focused about the healing process.”
AsAmNews is published by the non-profit, Asian American Media Inc. Please consider making a donation and following us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and TikTok. Information about interning, joining the staff or volunteering is here. We are supported by a grant from the California Library Commission and its Stop the Hate program. You can find more resources here.
It was an open discussion and viewing of historical works of art in an art history class. There was ample advance notice and everyone had a choice to stay or leave. The artwork was not displayed to be mocking, hurtful, or hateful. The instructor’s purpose is to explore different perspectives through art in an art history class.
The response to support the instructor by some Muslims and Muslim groups shows that there are different interpretations of what is acceptable in Islam. This is what the instructor was trying to teach the class.
The students who complained is coming from only one perspective. For many, college is the first time to learn and experience things beyond what you grew up with. But instead of creating a sensitive thoughtful teaching opportunity, the Dean and Assistant Director chose to vilify the instructor and use the dangerous label of hate “Islamophobic”. Hamline University fired the wrong person.