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USA: On firing an art professor for showing students a 14th century Islamic painting

Muslims for Progressive Values stand in solidarity with the fired Professor

Wednesday 11 January 2023, by siawi3


January 2023 Newsletter

Muslims for Progressive Values stand in solidarity with the fired Professor

President’s Note

At Hamlin University in Minnesota, an art professor was fired for displaying a painting of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) receiving Qur’anic revelations, a painting that is included in a manuscript copy of Rashid al-Din’s “Compendium of Chronicles”, created in Iran during the early 14th century at the behest of a Muslim leader. Apparently the display, which students were warned about prior to the specific webinar, offended a Muslim student in the course who complained that displaying the image in the lecture was an act of “Islamophobia”. The subsequent dismissal was recommended by the Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), which triggers the following question for me - how is the censorship of diverse interpretations of historically relevant, artistic expression an acceptable act from DEI?

This is the sort of tyrannical censorship within the Muslim community (‘affectionately’ known as the Haram Police on social media) that many of us Muslims are so fed up with. What are mosques and religious schools in the US teaching young Muslims? How about the rights that other students have, regardless of whether they are Muslim or not, to learn about Islam’s rich heritage of artists and creators?

We ask for you to stand in solidarity by please signing on to the petition to reinstate the professor and we encourage you to read Professor Amna Khalid’s piece entitled “Most of All, I am Offended as a Muslim”.

Following along the theme of education, or lack-there-of, by now we all know the Taliban has banned young women from attending secondary school and institutions of higher education. In addition to restricting their access to education, the Taliban have also barred women from working outside the home, including in many internationally funded NGOs, and from visiting libraries and parks.

In MPV’s newsletter from September 2021, I berated the many religious leaders who congratulated the Taliban for their return to governing Afghanistan. I will recap that paragraph here:

“Even more disheartening is the outpour of congratulatory messages from various religious authorities and Muslim influencers publicly proclaiming the Taliban comeback as”success of Islam against the infidels.“A recent tweet by Syeikh Ahmad al-Khalili the Mufti of Oman, circulated about the”victory of the Mujahideen’’ after congratulating the “clear conquest.” The Mufti of Morocco tweeted the League’s statement about the “victory and conquest that God bestowed upon our brothers in Afghanistan.” Similar congratulatory messages were conveyed by Syeikh Dr. Ahmad al-Raysuni head of the International Union of Muslim Scholars, Mufti Taqi Uthmani (Pakistan), Hamas, Sheikh Dadow (Mauritania), Dr. Muhammad Mukhtar al-Shanqeeti (an international influencer with 772K followers at posting), and finally the Malaysian Islamist party, PAS, which is part of the governing coalition."

As I was critical of the those who congratulated the Taliban, I believe it is equally important to acknowledge the Muslim entities who have spoken up against the barring of education for women, which includes:

Sunni Islam’s institution Al Azhar University, which condemned the Taliban’s banning of university education for women stating “ is a decision that contradicts Islamic law...”
Turkey’s government, which pressed for female education and inclusion.
And Saudi Arabia, whose condemnations can be found here.

It should be noted that these statements are largely coming from government officials, rather than religious institutions and leaders, which is an indicator of how in sync they are with Taliban leadership. What we should be doing is sanctioning and freezing the assets of the Taliban leaders who conveniently send their daughters for higher education in Dubai. One gleefully admitted on TV with “my daughter is in high school in Dubai and she’s even on a soccer team!”.

Such hypocrites.

Whether in an American University or the Taliban or Iran, the constant theme is the inclination of asserting power, control and censorship in the name of morality.

To delve deeper into this topic, I invite you to read my Op-Ed titled “There is Nothing Moral about the Moral Police” published by Freedom of Religion and Belief Women’s Alliance.

Onward and upward…

Ani Zonneveld

Founder, president

National Updates

The Progressive Muslim community is growing and as it expands, so too is Muslims for Progressive Values as we strive to be there to welcome and educate people as they seek to learn more about Progressive Islam. We are excited to announce that our application for volunteers is now open!

If you believe in the work that we do, are looking for a community to be a part of or help grow, or have benefited from our work and would like to ensure that other people can also benefit from MPV’s work, we encourage you to apply to be a volunteer today!

Check out our new store, which features dozens of new items available for sale, including a beautiful piece by Mariam Raj entitled Light of the Qur’an. For national and chapter events, check our calendar here.


February 17, 7:30-9 PM | The Future of Islamic Thought, at Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles.

Join MPV-LA for an evening on “The Future of Islamic Thought” with Dr. Adis Duderija, senior lecturer in the Study of Islam and Society at Griffith University in Brisbane, Australia, in conversation with Dr. Amir Hussain, chair and professor of Theological Studies at LMU.

Professor Duderija, a feminist scholar of Islam, has been a longtime friend and ally of MPV, who has been laying down the hermeneutics for progressive and inclusive Islam. Together, we have co-authored a chapter titled “Transnational Progressive Islam: Theory, Networks, and Lived Experience” for an academic publication “Handbook of Contemporary Islam and Muslim Lives” published by Springer (2021).

MPV in the Media

FoRB Women’s Alliance | There is Nothing Moral about the Moral Police | January 3, 2023

Progressive Islam in the Practice

At MPV we recognize that the Progressive Muslim movement will never sustain significant growth without making information about Progressive Islam more accessible to the Muslim community. The Progressive Islam in Practice Series is a manifestation of this campaign and as a result, we’ve helped to educate the community on topics from feminist readings of the Qur’an, abortion rights in Islam, issues of child and forced marriages, to the acceptance of sexual diversity in Islam.

In addition to sharing the series on social media, we have built up an entire page on the website dedicated to the Progressive Islam in Practice Series entitled Quick Learns.

To emphasis our earlier criticisms that a ban on the education of any individual is un-Islamic, we invite you to read our series of Girls Education in Islam.

To learn more about women’s rights in Islam, we encourage you to visit our Women’s Rights page.