Monday, January 16, 2023

On Hameline University, Depicting the Prophet Mohamed, Islamophobia and racism.

The picture of the Prophet Mohamed was almost certainly commissioned by a Muslim ruler. It was shown in an academic setting, with warnings, and the intention was clearly to try and use art to show Islam as a beautiful faith of nuance. This is not an act of Islamophobia or racism.

Racism and bigotry are problems in every society, even at a private, Christian, University in Minnesota. I do not know what it is like to be a Muslim and a person of color, but I do know a little bit about what I write.

I grew up as a Jewish American in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia where I had to be in the closet about my identity. Later on, I attended college in Moorhead, MN where I was still very much a member of a minority group, albeit no longer in the closet.

Today, I still live in western Minnesota and while my experiences with Muslims and Christians have been mostly positive, I can certainly relate to how people, good people, make assumptions or prejudge a person based on any number of cultural, socio-economic, sexual or political identities.

Education and the free exchange of ideas are key not only to combating racism and bigotry, but also ensuring that everyone has a fair shot at the American dream.

Hamlin University could do a better job in facilitating conversations about what it is like for its minority students, including dialogue about unearned privilege in society based on multiple, often intersecting, identities.

Let us use this controversy to have real conversations about what it is like in a post-9-11, post-Trump era to be a Muslim in America.