Photo Credit: Rashid al-Din Ṭabib / Wikimedia
Muhammad receiving his first revelation from the angel Gabriel. Miniature illustration on vellum. Now in the collection of the Edinburgh University Library, Scotland. c. 1306-15

Hamline University in Saint Paul, Minnesota, has joined the list of those who fear Islamic wrath.

An adjunct art history instructor at the private liberal arts college was fired this past November for showing her class paintings of the founder of Islam — Prophet Muhammad — during on online lecture on Islamic art, according to a report by The Daily Beast and multiple other news outlets.


The paintings were devotional images of the prophet created by Muslim artists in the 14th and 16th centuries.

Depictions of Prophet Muhammad are prohibited for practicing Muslims, but that did not stop Muslim artists from producing such works of art.

The instructor took great pains to ensure no student would be offended, even inadvertently.

“I am showing you this image for a reason,” she is quoted in The Oracle student newspaper as having stated beforehand. “And that is that there is this common thinking that Islam completely forbids, outright, any figurative depictions or any depictions of holy personages. While many Islamic cultures do strongly frown on this practice, I would like to remind you there is no one, monothetic Islamic culture.”

The instructor also offered religious students “an ‘out’” by offering time to shut off the video component of the online lecture.

Despite her preparation prior to the lecture, however, and notices to the students about the content that would be displayed, the day after the class one observant Muslim student complained about the presentation of the images.

The student was the president of the university’s Muslim Student Association.

Despite the fact that the instructor then apologized to the student the next day via email, The university’s Associate Vice President of Inclusive Excellent (AVPIE), Dr. David Everett, sent an email to the campus community denouncing the lecture as “undeniably inconsiderate, disrespectful and Islamophobic.”

The instructor, an adjunct, was fired four days later without due process, with the university declining to renew her contract.

A letter written by Dr. Mark Berkson, chair of the university’s department of religion, defended the instructor’s academic freedom based on the fact that such images are included in Islamic art history classes at universities across the world. The letter was published Dec. 6 in The Oracle but subsequently was removed by the paper’s staff, citing concerns it had caused “further harm to members of our community.”

However, a complaint has since been filed with the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), the school’s accreditor, which requires that colleges receiving accreditation protect academic freedom.

The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) announced on January 4 that it has filed a formal complaint with the Higher Learning Commission.

In the letter sent to HLC, FIRE director of campus rights advocacy Alex Morey wrote, “nonrenewal violates both HLC and Hamline policies clearly committing the university to free expression and its corollary, academic freedom for all faculty.

“If Hamline won’t listen to free speech advocates or faculty across the country, they’ll have to listen to their accreditor.”


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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for, and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.