From: Len Gutkin
Subject: The Review: Fired for Teaching Art History
When, a couple of months ago, I likened the University of Michigan students who persecuted Phoebe Gloeckner for teaching comix they considered offensive to the 16th-century Calvinist iconoclasts who destroyed sacred paintings, I was risking hyperbole. Or at least so I thought. But a recent incident at Hamline University, in Minnesota, literalizes the analogy. In this case, the offending image, shown by a non-tenure-track instructor in a survey course on art history, dates from the Middle Ages and depicts, in the words of the University of Michigan art historian Christiane Gruber, the Prophet Muhammad "receiving his first Quranic revelation through the Angel Gabriel." Invoking the conservative Islamic ban on representations of Muhammad, some Muslim students asserted that showing the image was Islamophobic; the university's administration agreed ("respect for the observant Muslim students in that classroom should have superseded academic freedom," Hamline's president wrote); the instructor's contract was not renewed. Religious orthodoxy and sensitivities about diversity converged uncannily in the condemnatory language of David Everett, Hamline's associate vice president for inclusive excellence. Showing the image, Everett said, was "undeniably inconsiderate, disrespectful, and Islamophobic."