Posted on January 21, 2023

Art Professor Sues Minnesota University That Fired Her over Complaints about Prophet Muhammad Images

Associated Press, January 18, 2023

An adjunct professor is suing the Minnesota university that terminated her employment after a Muslim student objected to images of the Prophet Muhammad that she taught in a global art course. Meanwhile, the school admitted to a “misstep” and said it plans to hold public conversations about academic freedom.

In her lawsuit, Erika López Prater, the professor, alleges that Hamline University — a small, private school in St. Paul — subjected her to religious discrimination and defamation, and damaged her professional and personal reputation.

“Among other things, Hamline, through its administration, has referred to Dr. López Prater’s actions as ‘undeniably Islamophobic,”’ her attorneys said in a statement. “Comments like these, which have now been published in news stories around the globe, will follow Dr. López Prater throughout her career, potentially resulting in her inability to obtain a tenure track position at any institution of higher education.”


Last October, López Prater showed the 14th-century painting depicting the Prophet Muhammad in a lesson on Islamic art. For many Muslims, visual depictions of the Prophet Muhammad violate their faith, which López Prater knew.

According to the lawsuit, López Prater’s course syllabus included a note that students would view images of religious figures, including the Prophet Muhammad. The syllabus also included an offer to work with students uncomfortable with viewing those images.

She also warned the class immediately before showing the depiction of the Prophet Muhammad. {snip}

López Prater has said she and the department chair were discussing her teaching a new course, but after the student’s complaint she was told “her services were no longer needed.”


On Friday, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a national civil rights organization for Muslims, disputed the belief that López Prater’s behavior was Islamophobic. The group said professors who analyze images of the Prophet Muhammad for academic purposes are not the same as “Islamophobes who show such images to cause offense.”

At a news conference last week organized by supporters of López Prater’s firing, the student who filed the complaint said she had never seen a depiction of the Prophet Muhammad until the October class.

“It just breaks my heart that I have to stand here to tell people that something is Islamophobic and something actually hurts all of us, not only me,” said Aram Wedatalla, president of Hamline’s Muslim Student Association.