Image: Screen shot Twitter @collegefix
Hamline University, a private liberal arts university in Saint Paul Minnesota, has reportedly declined to renew the contract of an art history professor for the grave sin of showing art.
The professor shared two ancient object depicting the Prophet Muhammad. The online class segment was optional.
An instructor who showed a painting of the Prophet Muhammad was publicly impugned & fired by Hamline University, Minnesota. In @newlinesmag, Islamic art professor Christiane Gruber provides details about the incident & how it undermines academic freedom https://t.co/UOpY94R5Vf
— New Lines Magazine (@newlinesmag) December 26, 2022
“An instructor who showed an Islamic painting during a visual analysis — a basic exercise for art history training — was publicly impugned for hate speech and dismissed thereafter, without access to due process,” Christiane Gruber, a professor of Islamic art at the University of Michigan, wrote in a December 22 essay for New Lines Magazine.
One of the paintings (pictured) is a depiction of Muhammad with a veil and halo from a 15th century manuscript, now preserved at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, according to Gruber.
The other, a depiction of Muhammad receiving a divine revelation from the angel Gabriel, is from an early 14th century manuscript by the statesman and scholar Rashid-al-Din.
“It is considered by scholars, curators and art collectors a masterpiece of Persian manuscript painting … often taught in Islamic art history classes at universities across the world, including in the U.S., Europe, the Arab world, Turkey and Iran,” Gruber wrote.
“A student complained about the image’s inclusion in the course and led efforts to press administrators for a response. After that, the university’s associate vice president of inclusive excellence (AVPIE) declared the classroom exercise ‘undeniably inconsiderate, disrespectful and Islamophobic,’” Gruber wrote, adding the segment depicting the images of Muhammad was “optional.”
PEN America condemned the actions. According to their website, “PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect free expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.”
In a press release, PEN America stated:
PEN America has learned that Hamline University reportedly refused to renew the contract of an art history professor, apparently because that professor showed an online class images of medieval and Renaissance art depicting the Prophet Muhammad. According to reports, the professor provided students with a warning about two minutes prior to displaying the art, allowing students to turn off their video feeds in advance if they chose. Hamline University described the lecture as “undeniably inconsiderate, disrespectful and Islamophobic.”
“If these reports are accurate, Hamline University has committed one of the most egregious violations of academic freedom in recent memory,” said Jeremy Young, senior manager of free expression and education at PEN America “Not only is an art history professor well within their rights to show medieval and Renaissance Islamic artworks in class, but the professor apparently took added care to create a positive pedagogical experience for students – placing the images in historical context, allowing students to opt out of viewing them, and thoughtfully exploring the history and diversity of Islamic art and thought. Non-renewing a professor’s contract under these circumstances is academic malpractice of a type that chills speech among all faculty, particularly contingent faculty who cannot rely on the status of tenure to protect their academic freedom. This professor’s contract should be renewed immediately, and Hamline administrators should take an opportunity to remind themselves what academic freedom means.”
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