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THE Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, (FIRE) wants San Francisco State University to immediately call off an investigation launched against history professor Maziar Behrooz for showing a drawing of Mohammed while teaching a lesson on the history of the Islamic world.
This is the second time this year that an image of the so-called “prophet” has sparked a row. As I reported earlier this year Minnesota’s Hamline University faced a firestorm for not renewing the contract of instructor Erika Lòpez-Prater after she displayed medieval artwork depicting Mo in her art history course.
Behrooz displayed a historical image depicting the “prophet” in a class session on the history of the Islamic world between 500 and 1700.
Behrooz explained to administrators that the type of drawing he showed can be bought at markets near holy shrines in Tehran, where Behrooz was born.
But after a student “strongly objected” to the depiction, the institution chose to launch an investigation in March—months later.
The Hamline debacle
Writing for FIRE, Sabrina Conza said:
Unfortunately, SFSU administrators haven’t learned anything from Hamline’s mistakes. Just like with Hamline, SFSU is violating a professor’s academic freedom rights because some took offense to pedagogically relevant course content.
SFSU’s investigation of Behrooz is especially egregious given that administrators are almost certainly aware of Hamline’s missteps, which made national news.
Image via YouTube
In that case, Lòpez-Prater sued the university, faculty voted 71-12 urging the university president to step down, and the president [Fayneese Miller, above] is now retiring.
Minnesota’s Hamline University has betrayed its commitment to ’embrace’ free expression, including potentially ‘unpopular and unsettling’ ideas.
FIRE wrote to SFSU, urging the university to end its investigation and reaffirm that it will protect faculty academic freedom rights.
Academic freedom necessitates that faculty members receive substantial breathing room to determine how to approach subjects and materials relevant to their courses, rather than allowing administrators, students, legislators, or outside authorities to unduly influence those decisions.
Pedagogically relevant material may include words, concepts, subjects, or discussions that some, many, or even most students find upsetting or uncomfortable, including displaying materials that may offend those who practice a certain religion.
Faculty must be free of institutional restraints in attempting to confront and examine complex issues, as was Behrooz in teaching Islamic history.
Image via YouTube
Note: The image used to illustrate this piece was created by American cartoonist Bosch Fawstin, above.
Fawsin was born into a Muslim family in Albania but is now an atheist.
His cartoon It was judged winner of a “Draw Muhammad” contest in Garland, Texas eight years ago.
The event led to an attempt by two ISIS-inspired terrorists to kills Fawstin and his fellow contestants. The Islamists were shot dead.
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