American college professor dismissed for showing images of Muhammad

Several associations denounce an attack on academic freedom. An American university is under fire from critics after the dismissal this winter of a professor who showed images of the Prophet Muhammad in class.

Hamline University, located in the state of Minnesota in the north of the United States, “admits not having renewed the contract of an art history professor last semester after the complaint of a student Muslim,” said the civil liberties association FIRE in a January 4 complaint filed with a US higher education board.

The student had indeed considered as an attack on her religious beliefs the fact that her teacher “shows in class, in an optional way, a painting from the 14th century depicting the Prophet Muhammad as part of a discussion on Islamic art ” , continued the organization. Islam, in its strict interpretation, prohibits any depiction of the Prophet Muhammad.

Many warnings

Erika Lopez Prater, a temporary professor who also showed another image of the prophet during her online course in October, had previously issued numerous warnings to her students asking them to leave the session if they wanted to, several reported. American media.

Accused of Islamophobia by the university, the teacher apologized after the fact. In vain. “Respect for students observing the Muslim faith in this class should have trumped academic freedom,” Hamline University President Fayneese Miller said in an email quoted by The New York Times.

Reinstatement required

“If an art history professor cannot show college students a vital work of art for fear that offended students or group may have him fired, then there is no guarantee of academic freedom in this institution and no commitment to higher education”, reacted for its part the Academic Freedom Alliance association in a letter to the university, dated at the beginning of January, demanding the immediate reinstatement of Erika Lopez Prater.

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A petition on the website in support of the academic and calling for an investigation has collected more than 7,900 signatures since December 24.

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