In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the tragedy wasn’t so much the killing of the father; it was the son’s bad decisions that resulted in the end killing of everyone involved: the son, the uncle, and the queen! Here at Hamline University, lots of bad decisions resulted in the tragedy. It started when Erika Lopez Prater, an adjunct professor at Hamline University, showed a 14-century image of the prophet Mohammed in her art class, resulting in a professor losing, as the Times puts it, “her teaching gig”; A student lost her safety. A Muslim community leader lost his focus, and the Hamlin university lost its credential. President Fayneese Miller’s blamed the media for the assault on her institution under the rubric of academic freedom. Not exactly, as is always the case, western media framed the debate as a war between backward Islam and the Modern West binary. As a Muslim and adjunct professor who taught at Hamline.
Ms. Prater gave all the needed warnings to prepare her students for the unimaginable; even so, she lost her contract. Friends and foes are asking me what I think!! Did she make a mistake? They need a yes or no answer; they need a condemnation! “I never thought Hamline University was a Mosque,” a Facebook friend wrote. For adjunct professors, academic freedom isn’t the biggest issue; it is economic freedom. This isn’t about academic freedom and Muslims’ distastefulness of Arts and modern life. Adjunct professors around the country are unprotected specie, hired term-by-term, based on enrollment, and teach classes that tenure-track professors don’t want to teach, with low wages, no benefits, and no appreciation. Hamline University, a private school, hazily and regrettably ended Ms. Prater’s gig. The president denied that the adjunct professor lost her job, “The decision not to offer her another class was made at the unit level and in no way reflects on her ability to adequately teach the class”. However, the university was not worrying about Muslim students’ safety but student enrollment. For those who reflexively cry Islamophobia, Showing historical Islamic art of the prophet in art history class isn’t Islamophobia; the Muslim ban is. If students aren’t comfortable, they should leave or take a different class. I taught a marketing class at the University of St. Thomas ( a Catholic School). I showed a video on sex appeals used in advertisements, and a major theology student stood up and asked to talk to me outside the classroom, “why should we see this filth in the class” he protested. The video showed ads that won the Annual British Advertising award, and we are bombarded with them on TV daily.” I’m going to take this to the dean’s office,” the student threatened. Nothing came out of this, the student finished the class, and I fianished the semester. These controversial artworks of the prophet incidentally were created by Muslims themselves more than seven centuries ago; the Muslim artists showed their admiration and inspiration for the prophet. History is what keeps us together, it creates an imagined community we all share. Americans ignore history, with so much emphasis on its presence. Assault on academic freedom comes from all sides and directions; As Professor David Schultz of Hamline, explained on my TV show, Professors are fired for teaching unacceptable or politically incorrect classes from the left and the right. “From the right, the allegation is that wokeness and political correctness have taken over, articulating a political agenda that is anti-white, anti-Christian, anti-capitalism, and pro LGBTQ. From the left, the indictment is that schools continue to replicate stereotypes in their curriculum that perpetuate discrimination against marginalized groups.” We have parents who storm schools to stop teachers from teaching CRT and history classes in the development of racism in America; this may tarnish the image of racist white ancestors. Relief depicting Prophet Muhammad standing among the Roman Emperor Justinian and other great human thinkers can be found today at the US Supreme Court, Washington DC. The USA. In his 13th-century Divine Comedy Italian poetic narrative, Dante depicted the prophet Mohammed in horrible images in an inferno. The Muslims didn’t bend out of shape; instead, they sent Arabic translations of Greek masterpieces to medieval Europe. 13th-century Muslims were free thinkers and confident believers. Islam was adamant against worshiping idols; the first thing the prophet did was topple all idols in the temple. Now we live as the French thinker Jean Baudrillard explained in hyper realities, where we have copies of copies of copies, with either no original or where the originals vanished; called simulacrum, he explained. We believe in protecting the image of commercial brands like Coke, Apple, Walt Disney characters, and Hollywood Century Twenty-One and not so much the image of Century one. Jesus, a Jew born in the middle east, now looks like a Swedish tennis player with long blond hair and blue eyes. Finally, I’ll leave with this story: When I first came to this country. I was helping an Iranian immigrant in his Autobody business that he had just started: His name was Askar. I had a plan; I changed the name of his business to “Askar Auto Body”, with the logo of the Oskar statue erected on top of a VW car holding a wrench. A few months later, I got a call from the terrified Askar “come here now”. Once I got to his shop, he handed me a letter from the Oskar Academy lawyer asking him to cease and desist immediately; “this is infringing on the Oscar trademark and logo,” the letter explained. I advised my Iranian friend this is the David and Goliath story, which would be great publicity for his starting business. He refused; and asked to change the name and logo of Oscar’s image. My Iranian immigrant friend came to America to fix cars and not to infringe on the holy image of the Hollywood Oscar Statue. “It’s Complicated”
Host/Producer of the Arab American TV show BelAhdan
Lives in Minnetonka
He is working on his documentary.
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