Image via YouTube
SPEAKING at a press conference, Hamline University senior Aram Wedatalla explained why a 14th-century painting depicting the “prophet” Mohammed had so upset her.
I was shocked with a professor who gave me a trigger warning before proceeding to disrespect my religion.
The painting that sparked the row. Image courtesy of Edinburgh University Library, Scotland (Wikipedia CC.)
Wedatalla said she had never in her life seen a painting of the prophet. The event, she said, was “painful, for me, my family and my community.”
On January 6, we revealed that the adjunct professor—Erika López Prater—who showed the painting to students after issuing a prior warning that she intending do so, would not have her contract renewed after Wedatalla had complained to the university’s administration.
Image via Hamline University
Hamline’s President, Fayneese Miller, above, shamefully agreed that the display of the painting was:
Undeniably inconsiderate, disrespectful and Islamophobic.
At the start of the press conference last Wednesday organised by the Minneapolis chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the first speaker described the professor’s action as “sacrilegious”— and should be seen as “hate speech.”
Now here a thing. Three days after the press conference CAIR Minnesota’s parent organisation, whilst reaffirmed its longstanding policy of discouraging the display of images of the “prophet”, noted that the academic study of ancient paintings depicting him does not, by itself, constitute Islamophobia.
CAIR also said that it has seen “no evidence” that Prater had bigoted intent or engaged in Islamophobic conduct in the classroom.
Hamline faces a blowback
According to Religion News, CAIR’s official statement adds to those made by other Islamic organisations such as the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), which said it supported the instructor and called on the university to “reverse its decision and to take compensatory action to ameliorate the situation.”
MPAC was clear:
The painting was not Islamophobic. In fact, it was commissioned by a fourteenth-century Muslim king in order to honor the Prophet, depicting the first Quranic revelation from the angel Gabriel.
Other groups, such as the Middle East Studies Association, the National Coalition Against Censorship, the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression and PEN America, have also objected to the university’s apparent violation of academic freedom.
And more than 16,000 people have signed a petition calling for the instructor to be reinstated.
The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression filed a formal complaint with Hamline’s accreditor, accusing the university of violating its own academic freedom policies.
Furthermore, over 40 faculty signed a letter to Hamline’s board of trustees saying they were “gravely concerned” about the absence of effective, functional and strategic leadership.
In a statement Miller said she wanted to correct the record. She insisted that the decision to not renew the instructor’s contract was not made by her but at the “unit level.”
Which, to my mind, suggests that not only should she resign, but the entire administration. They are not fit for purpose. And Prater should be immediately reinstated.
• As a result of my sacking last year by The Freethinker, I desperately need help to keep The Angry Atheist going. You can support my work in three ways: via PayPal, Buy Me a Coffee or GofundMe.
IF you spot any typos in this piece, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Use this address to send me links to stories you believe would fit well on this site.
Leave a Reply