Muslim community honors Prophet Muhammad after incident at Hamline University

Local Muslim leaders say their community is hurting after an incident last semester at Hamline University. A lecturer showed paintings of the Prophet Muhammad in class and lost her job.

It was an emotional day at in St. Paul ballroom Sunday as CAIR-MN and other organizations held an event they say was meant to challenge Islamophobia and honor the Prophet Muhammad.

"Our scholars are here talking about honoring the prophet and why we don't show images of our prophet. It's part of our belief not to show his image we don't have images of him. We don't worship Prophet Muhammad," said Kassim Busuri, the executive director of the Minnesota Dawah Institute.

This event was planned in response to an incident at Hamline University in October when an adjunct professor showed two paintings of the prophet during a world art course.

"We always knew that there is a small segment of Muslims that are OK with that, but the overwhelming majority of Muslims are not OK with it at all. In this particular case, the Muslim student who raised the issue is not OK with it at all," said Jaylani Hussein, the executive director of CAIR-MN.

The president of the Muslim Student Association was in the class at the time.

"All of you guys know what actually happened. So I'm not here to speak about what happened. I'm here to speak about how our community felt. The school president and administration have given us their support through this all," Aram Wedatalla, the president of Hamline University's Muslim Student Association.

The adjunct professor, Dr. Erika Lopez Prater, said she was then told she wouldn’t teach a course in the spring semester. She has since filed a lawsuit against Hamline University arguing university leaders signed off on her course syllabus and she gave students ample warnings about what she would show. 

She says university leaders called her actions "Islamophobic," which could affect her ability to get a job in the future.

After the lawsuit reached FOX 9’s desk last week, Hamline's president walked back some previous statements, saying, "We have determined that our usage of the term Islamophobic was flawed."

Islamic art scholars and the national Council on American-Islamic Relations have said the academic study of the prophet does not constitute as islamophobia. But the local CAIR chapter continues to disagree.

"We believe that this incident and the act that the individual did is Islamophobic. However, we never mentioned that she's a bigot because of that incident," Hussein said.

Local Muslim leaders said they now hope conversations and change can come out of this incident.

"For all the Muslim students out there … please never compromise your religion and faith," Wedatalla said.

Hamline University has also said it will host two major conversations in the coming months centered around academic freedom, student care and religion.