As members of the CLARITy Coalition, we unequivocally stand with Erica López Prater, former Art History professor at Hamline University. We defend free speech, religious freedom and academic freedom and deplore any civic, social or legal penalties, violent actions and threats of violence stemming from Islamic and other religious blasphemy codes, including those, such as in this case, that are framed in terms of hate speech. The Clarity Coalition is a pro-freedom coalition founded by and largely comprised of members from Muslim backgrounds.
Dr López Prater was dismissed from Hamline after she showed a painting of Prophet Muhammed receiving a Quranic revelation from Angel Gabriel. It is a 14th century painting that is regularly shown in art history classes; however, this time a student complained that the image was “undeniably inconsiderate, disrespectful and Islamophobic”. The image was painted by Muslims, and it is valued by Muslims for its historical and artistic relevance. It is included in a text by a famous Muslim vizier named Rashid Al-Din Hamdani (1247-1318). Despite these facts the president of Hamline university released a statement saying that “the feelings of Muslim students supersedes academic freedom.”
The president’s statement and dismissal of the professor betray the values of liberalism and freedom of expression cherished by the CLARITy Coalition. It is important to clarify that Muslims are not a monolith. Some Muslims support free expression, while some Muslims, who follow extremist policies, seek reprisals against or even the murder of those who share images of Prophet Muhammad or express themselves in a host of other ways subjectively perceived as offending Islam. As freedom loving persons, we understand the importance to democracy and social development of supporting freedom of expression, religious freedom and academic freedom. Many of us come from societies that restrict such freedoms and we understand the dangers of recognizing only one interpretation of Islam.
CLARITy Coalition raises the alarm of concern over a university that chooses to support extremist Islamist views on what is or is not permissible discourse instead of views consistent with liberty and fundamental freedoms.