(ConservativeSense.com) – Earlier this month, Erika López Prater, an adjunct art professor, was dismissed from her job at Hamline University (a private school in St. Paul, Minnesota) after showing images of the Prophet Muhammad in a course about global art, to which a student objected. She is now suing the university for defamation and religious discrimination.
López Prater’s attorneys said on Tuesday that she is suing Hamline University for firing her after one of her Muslim students complained about the professor showing a 14th-century painting of Muhammad during a lesson about Islamic art. For many Muslims, it is considered a violation to depict or show depictions of the Prophet Muhammad.
In her attorneys’ statement, they allege that because Hamline’s administration “has referred to Dr. López Prater’s actions as ‘undeniably Islamophobic’” the comments will follow López Prater “through her career, potentially resulting in her inability to obtain a tenure track position at any institution of higher education.” They argue these comments are defamatory, damaging the personal and professional reputation of their client. The lawsuit also notes that López Prater’s syllabus had a note forewarning students that they would view images of religious figures, including Muhammad, and offered to work with any students uncomfortable with that.
After the university was served the lawsuit which will be filed in court soon, University President Fayneese Miller and Board of Trustees chair, Ellen Watters, released a joint statement saying they have reviewed and re-examined their actions. However, the lawsuit itself was not addressed. They admit that by trying to support their Muslim students, “language was used that does not reflect our sentiments on academic freedom,” and determined based “on all that we have learned… our usage of the term ‘Islamophobic’ was therefore flawed.”
Hamline University plans to conduct two public discussions within the next few months on academic freedom and caring about students’ perspectives as well as academic freedom and religious beliefs.
The offense taken by Muslims over depicting Muhammad has resulted in multiple conflicts within the Western world, sometimes leading to violent retaliation by Islamic extremists. France in particular has dealt with the more brutal side of this issue, such as the 2015 Charlie Hebdo shootings in Paris. And in 2020, a French teacher who showed one of the Charlie Hebdo caricatures of Muhammad in his class was stalked and decapitated by a young man outside the school.
These incidents raise the question of how compatible Islamic values are with Western values of free speech.
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