In the Name of Fighting Islamophobia, a Minnesota College Fires a Professor for Blasphemy

Dec. 29 2022

Teaching an art-history survey course this fall, a professor at Hamline University—a small liberal-arts college in St. Paul, Minnesota—dedicated a class session to Islamic art. That day, the professor showed students two medieval paintings of Mohammad, both by Muslim artists, and discussed the various Muslim attitudes toward such depictions. The president of the campus Muslim Students Association soon complained of Islamophobia, and Hamline administrators then announced that the instructor had been dismissed. Jonathan Zimmerman writes:

One Hamline faculty member—just one—publicly defended the professor, writing an essay for the [student newspaper] that pleaded for a historically informed discussion of the paintings. Two days later, the paper removed the essay from its website. And the day after that, in a message to all university employees, Hamline’s President Fayneese S. Miller and Associate Vice-President of Inclusive Excellence David Everett declared that “respect for the observant Muslims in that classroom should have superseded academic freedom.”

How about non-observant Muslims, and everyone else in the class? They get no respect. Nor does academic freedom, which was established to protect faculty against precisely the kind of attacks that sank the Hamline professor.

In dismissing its professor, Hamline claimed to be striking a blow for “inclusive excellence,” to quote David Everett’s grimly Orwellian title. But it actually reinforced ugly stereotypes of Muslims as intolerant, small-minded, and provincial. And it excluded the views of anybody else—including many Muslims—who might see the world differently from the offended students. That’s not excellence; it’s cowardice.

Read more at New York Daily News

More about: Academia, Art history, Freedom of Religion, Radical Islam

Israel’s Friendship with Iraqi Kurds, and Why Iran Opposes It

In May 2022, the Iraqi parliament passed a law “criminalizing normalization and establishment of relations with the Zionist entity,” banning even public discussion of ending the country’s 76-year state of war with Israel. The bill was a response to a conference, held a few months prior, addressing just that subject. Although the gathering attracted members of various religious and ethnic groups, it is no coincidence, writes Suzan Quitaz, that it took place in Erbil, capital of Iraqi Kurdistan:

Himdad Mustafa, an independent researcher based in Erbil, to whom the law would be applied, noted: “When 300 people gathered in Erbil calling for peace and normalization with Israel, the Iraqi government immediately passed a law criminalizing ties with Israel and Israelis. The law is clearly aimed at Kurds.” . . . Qais al-Khazali, secretary-general of Asaib Ahl al-Haq (Coordination Framework), a powerful Iranian-backed Shiite militia, slammed the conference as “disgraceful.”

Himdad explains that the criminalization of Israeli-Kurdish ties is primarily driven by “Kurd-phobia,” and that Kurd-hatred and anti-Semitism go hand-in-hand.

One reason for that is the long history of cooperation Israel and the Kurds of Iraq; another is the conflict between the Kurdish local government and the Iran-backed militias who increasingly control the rest of the country. Quitaz elaborates:

Israel also maintains economic ties with Kurdistan, purchasing Kurdish oil despite objections from Iraq’s central government in Baghdad. A report in the Financial Times discusses investments by many Israeli companies in energy, development sectors, and communications projects in Iraqi Kurdistan, in addition to providing security training and purchasing oil. Moreover, in a poll conducted in 2009 in Iraqi Kurdistan, 71 percent of Kurds supported normalization with Israel. The results are unsurprising since, historically, Israel has had cordial ties with the Kurds in a generally hostile region where Jews and Kurds have fought against the odds with the same Arab enemy in their struggles for a homeland.

The Iranian regime, through its proxies in the Iraqi government, is the most significant source of Kurd-phobia in Iraq and the driving factor fueling tensions. In addition to their explicit threat to Israel, Iranian officials frequently threaten the Kurdish region, and repeatedly accuse the Kurds of working with Israel.

Read more at Jersualem Center for Public Affairs

More about: Iran, Iraq, Israel-Arab relations, Kurds