Academic Freedom Alliance Statement Regarding Hamline University
The Academic Freedom Alliance released a statement regarding the decision of Hamline University to fire an instructor for showing a class in global art history a picture of a medieval Persian painting depicting the Prophet Muhammad. This is an appalling violation of academic freedom.
The painting in question is widely regarded as an important work of art in the Persian and Islamic traditions, and it is regularly exhibited and taught in classrooms across the globe. A video of the class session reportedly indicates that the professor took care to give a “content warning” and provide necessary context before the image was shown to the class. The class itself was apparently virtual, and the instructor gave students an opportunity to turn off their own video feed to avoid viewing the image.
Some students in the class complained that they felt disrespected by the showing of an image of Muhammad which some devout Muslims regard as unacceptable. The associate vice president for inclusive excellence denounced the instructor’s actions as “inconsiderate, disrespectful and Islamophobic” and “unacceptable” in a Hamline classroom. The president then announced to the campus community that academic freedom “should not and cannot be used to excuse away behavior that harms others.” The putatively harmful behavior in this context was showing to students in a college class a famous work of Islamic art. Nonetheless, the president concluded that “respect, decency, and appreciation of religious and other differences should supersede” academic free
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