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Hamline College fired an artwork historian final fall for displaying a caricature of the Prophet Muhammad receiving Islamic instruction from the angel Gabriel. The dismissal was in response to Muslim college students who have been offended by the picture, proclaiming that the instructor had dedicated the unforgivable sin of Islamophobia. The story drew consideration and sparked a debate concerning the conundrum between educational freedom and non secular rights.
As a Muslim who studied Islam historically in Yemen and Saudi Arabia, and academically on the College of Miami and the College of Pennsylvania, I’m not offended by caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad, or any holy determine.
The Prophet of Islam mentioned that “deeds are judged by their intention,” a basic precept within the reasoning of Islamic legislation. Prof. Erika López Prater, who confirmed the picture to her class, took precautions to verify its intent was instructional and never comical. For instance, within the course syllabus, she warned college students that prophetic photographs could be proven at school, and no college students objected.
From an Islamic perspective, their actions must be judged in response to their instructional intent.
There’s a debate throughout the Islamic custom itself as as to whether prophetic photographs are permitted or prohibited. No matter that debate, nonetheless, classroom discussions shouldn’t be regulated in response to a specific strand of faith. It’s vital for college kids to have an intensive dialogue about Islam within the classroom. On many problems with Islamic legislation, Muslim students have defended competing positions, starting from the liberal to the conservative, the attractive to the ugly, the tolerant to the illiberal.
For instance, Omid Safi, a professor of Islamic research at Duke College, has no objection to displaying photographs of the Prophet Muhammad. Such photographs are usually proven in his courses at Duke, even with out taking the precautionary measures that Lopez Prater has taken. Nevertheless, different students and leaders could also be inherently against prophetic drawings, whatever the intent of displaying them.
Safi fled Iran to america when he was 14 years outdated. That non-public historical past maybe influences whether or not college students interpret his conduct as Islamophobic or not. Nevertheless, López Prater has a special background which will have led college students to interpret his conduct inside a hostile framework.
In different phrases, students who come from Islamic cultures, whether or not perceived or precise, no matter which means, are much less more likely to undergo accusations of Islamophobia. A white Christian scholar in Boston or Minnesota is extra more likely to undergo the accusation than a Muslim scholar instructing in Cairo or Morocco. That is complicated at finest.
Schools and universities in america deal with overseas and native college students in another way. Particularly, there’s a distinction between overseas and American Muslims. International Muslims are inclined to have a special engagement with Islam, viewing the faith from a theological perspective. American Muslims might view Islam from an identification perspective, primarily involved with the politics of illustration.
Sadly, many faculties and universities in america lump these two teams collectively and sometimes ignore the voices of overseas Muslims.
Many Individuals have no idea a lot about religions basically or Islam specifically. Avoiding a instructor who displayed an image of the Prophet Muhammad will solely discourage Individuals from studying concerning the custom of Islam, as they are going to be afraid of exposing themselves to unwarranted controversy. Nevertheless, as a Muslim, I want extra folks would discover the historical past of Islam.
A greater solution to deal with the controversy at Hamline could be to host a dialogue on the problem of prophetic caricatures. That will be a greater studying expertise for the scholars.
After I fled to america from Yemen, I sought a liberal training with which to rethink the retrograde views I discovered as a baby. I got here right here to discover ways to change into a scholar who independently investigates matters full of ethical ambiguity. In different phrases, he was able to obtain an training, not an indoctrination.
Sadly, the current development in American greater training appears to emphasise political correctness over essential inquiry. It appears to silence mental curiosity as we enter the age the place non secular conformity trumps educational freedom.
Abdulrahman Bindamnan is a Ph.D. scholar and fellow on the Interdisciplinary Heart for the Examine of World Change on the College of Minnesota.