Council on American-Islamic Relations rescinds chapter MN defending professor in art history controversy

The Council on American-Islamic Relations on Friday defended a former professor of art history at Hamlin University, saying her classroom use of ancient art depicting the Prophet Muhammad was not anti-Islam.

In a statement, CAIR’s national office said it felt the need to clarify its position, which contradicts views expressed by Jilani Hussain, president of the Minnesota chapter of CAIR.

Nihad Awad, CAIR’s national executive director, said, “Although CAIR’s national headquarters does not usually comment on local issues that arise in states where one of our affiliates is located, we do occasionally have to speak out to clarify a position.” our entire organization on issues of national concern.”

Nihad Awad, right, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), an Islamic advocacy and civil rights organization, speaks during a press conference with Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., left, asking for answers about journalist Jamal Khashoggi's disappearance in Saudi Arabia, Wednesday 10 October 2018, in front of The Washington Post in Washington.  (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Nihad Awad speaks during a press conference in Washington in 2018 about the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

“While we strongly discourage the display of visual images of the Prophet, we recognize that professors who analyze ancient paintings for an academic purpose are not the same as those who display such images for abuse. Based on what we know up to this point, we see no evidence that Professor Erica Lopez Prater acted with anti-Islamic intent or engaged in behavior consistent with our definition of Islamophobia.

“Academics should not be condemned as fanatics without evidence or lose office without justification.”

Hussein previously In an interview with Pioneer Press that López-Prater apparently “selected the most anti-Islamic images (from) an ocean of Islamic art” for her October study.

Hundreds of academics have He defended the professor’s use of two paintings depicting the ProphetOne in particular, he says, is commonly taught in college art history courses. Lopez-Prater warned students about what the artwork depicted before showing it in a video lesson, giving students the opportunity to look away and opt out of the discussion.

Many Muslims find visual depictions of the Prophet blasphemous, and at least one Muslim student in the class complained to Hamlin officials, who later called the professors’ actions “undeniably anti-Islam” and decided not to reinstate López-Prater for the spring semester.

Finney Miller, President, Hamlin University
Fiennes Miller (Courtesy of Hamlin University)

In a statement Wednesday, Hamlin Vines Miller President responded to the widespread criticism by suggesting that the university in this case chose to prioritize student well-being over academic freedom. She also denied that Lopez-Prater was “dropped out,” “expelled,” or “expelled,” and wrote that the assistant professor taught the remainder of the fall semester.

“The decision not to offer her another class was made at unit level and is in no way reflected in her ability to teach the class appropriately,” Miller wrote.

Separately, Hamlin’s interim agent Andy Rundquist said in a letter to faculty this week that “the reasons for not offering the assistant a spring appointment were complex, and it would be inappropriate for us to share any details about this at this time.” The decision was to cooperate with the department, and was supported by a host of reasons that were outside of the class incident. In other words, rather than the controversy itself, how it was handled was important.”

The board is “reviewing the university’s policies and responses to recent student and subsequent faculty concerns about academic freedom,” Elaine Waters, chair of the Hamlin Board of Trustees, said in a written statement Friday, adding that the controversy prompted “difficult conversations and serious self-reflection.”

Besides the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the Council on Islamic Public Affairs also has it Defend Lopez PraterOn Monday, she wrote that her lesson attempted to convey diversity of opinion within religions and that she “should be thanked for her role in educating students, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, and for doing so in a critically sympathetic manner.”

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