Dec 29, 2022Liked by Jeffrey Aaron Snyder, Amna Khalid

Thank you for writing this. I don’t know how it happened, exactly, but the wish to be kind, thoughtful, and inclusive (the good impulse behind DEI) has been perverted into something very ugly, with universities eager to censor themselves and others and to demand apologies for the silliest imagined offenses.

Even self-abasing apologies and promises to “do better” are not enough -- that only seems to serve as blood in the water to sharks. Often these people are fired, when they were thoughtfully and appropriately doing the jobs they were hired to do.

There seems to be no shortage of people who enjoy this game, gleefully seeking out offenses and proclaiming they’ve been harmed. They get all sorts of positive attention for this. Not only are they not bothered when someone’s career is destroyed; they demand it.

And then there’s this:

Why must the professor “warn” students about the image at all? The example of evangelical Christians was apt -- if we don’t warn students and tell them they can opt out of the evolution lecture, why are we warning students that they might see a painting of Muhammad? If anything, such warnings serve as neon signs:

“Here’s your chance to get positive attention for complaining about how you’ve suffered harm and oppression.”

(Which is an insult to people everywhere who do suffer from oppression.)

Not to blame the professor, because many people issue such warnings now, but we need to realize we _set up_ the hysterical response when we act as if seeing a painting might be truly upsetting.

It’s bad enough that young people are being led to behave this way; it’s even worse that our institutions don’t immediately play the role of adults and shut it down.

Education is not supposed to be easy or comfortable. It’s supposed to challenge us and take us beyond the limits of our personal comfort.

Just as a parent’s reaction when a child stumbles can make the difference between whether the child brushes herself off or starts crying, our institutions are creating this fragile and unseemly behavior.

I mean really -- apologies from the university? Claiming this was Islamophobia? Firing the professor?

This is exactly like the parent who races to the doctor when his child scrapes her knee.

Spoiler alert: there’s no upside to this behavior. No one benefits. Even the child, ostensibly the recipient of love and attention, is not helped. She is harmed by seeing (and learning) extreme responses to routine events.

If there’s anything more puzzling than how this all evolved -- or how it continues to happen again and again and again -- it’s that academics, our most educated people who certainly know better, are not rising up against it en masse.

This is ridiculous.

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The warping of DEI bureaucracy is a result of the incentives of the education business. Schools see DEI as a tool to increase the value of their institutions, and that value increases based on the perception that DEI is "active" or "taken seriously". This leads to an emphasis on posturing and appeal to (mostly white, male, straight, cis, &c.) formless ideas of what DEI is "supposed" to look like. The DEI apparatus is an arm of university PR and marketing.

I honestly do get it if a Muslim genuinely feels that it goes against their faith practice to look at a depiction of the Prophet. I might not agree with their interpretation of the faith, but plenty of Muslims hold this interpretation in good faith, and we should respect that. But if this were a culinary class, and the professor was instead explaining how to prepare a pork dish that involved an optional tasting, we would not call the professor, the class, or the optional tasting Islamophobic.

Now, if I were in such a class, I might feel a little bit uncomfortable just because of my religious feelings around pork. The professor would have an obligation in such a class, I feel, to let students know in advance that there will be pork in the classroom. Ideally the professor mentions it on the syllabus.

In this case, the professor did what was sufficient, unless there's vital context we're missing. They shouldn't have been disciplined at all, and certainly should not have been fired. Now, professors will hesitate to teach about this painting and others like it, meaning people -- including Muslims like myself -- will be cut off from vital parts of our pre-colonial cultures. Our educational system is likely to become more Islamophobic as a result, as Muslims and Muslim works are further removed from academia.

I am infuriated that clearly non-Muslim DEI officials would call Muslim cultural practice, Muslim artistic expression, and Muslim history Islamophobic. They don't understand the nuances of Islam, and their veneer of cultural understanding doesn't do much to hide the shallow, reductive, ignorant reasoning that they used when tacitly declaring one interpretation of Islam to be the arbiter of all Islamic practice and belief. The professor who was fired seems to be a much greater ally to Muslims than the DEI office that pretends to stand for the Muslim community

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Perhaps the most concise critique of this whole 'trigger warning' and 'sensitivity' business I've seen.

"...extreme responses to routine events." Indeed. It is not a teacher's or parent's proper job to protect a student or child from absolutely every experience in the world that has some kind of 'negativity' attached to it. The mother who won't allow her child to "get dirty" while playing for fear of "germs" does the child no favors, since healthy immune systems develop in part by "being exposed to things."

Props on what you wrote here.

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Dec 29, 2022Liked by Jeffrey Aaron Snyder

“Hamline has privileged a most extreme and conservative Muslim point of view. The administrators have flattened the rich history and diversity of Islamic thought. Their insistence that figurative representations of Muhammad are “forbidden for Muslims to look upon” runs counter to historical and contemporary evidence.”

This really struck me. One of my big frustrations with so many DEI initiatives is the inability to acknowledge and appreciate the sheer level of religious diversity and expression in the world. As a person of faith, I too find it offensive in the sense that it’s so incredibly patronizing to have a room full of academics decide what a nuanced group of people believe and decide the poor unenlightened followers of that faith need to be protected from “harm.”

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Dec 29, 2022Liked by Amna Khalid

It seems reductive, simplistic thinking is the order of the day. I would argue that is a core element of all DEI programs, which appear to avoid nuance by design.

Fantastic article and thank you for sharing your thoughtful analysis on an often tenuous and knotty issue.

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Intention (as in intending to insult et al) is very much a part of Islamic teachings.

The instructor was out to teach; the student was out to find insult. And did, or so he claimed.

This is a shabby example of what is taking place throughout much of Western Academe.

The most depressing aspect is that it is seldom even noticed, let alone reported and/or condemned as it should be.

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Bravo, Prof. Khalid! Thank you for speaking out against this great injustice launched by the ultra-religious. Please consider the same when you place former Muslims in the same homogenous box. 🙏🏽Sending nothing but peace and blessings. ✌🏽

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Jan 5, 2023·edited Jan 5, 2023

As one who interacts frequently with devout Muslims, I have learned much about Islamic contributions to culture including poetry, calligraphy, art, and calculus. The item selected by the professor is an example of exquisite medieval Islamic art. If the professor cannot provide examples of skill and beauty in Muslim artistic works, it leaves the impression that there are none. This effort by the professor serves to reduce stereotypes and Islamophobia, not produce them and would have been a highly educational experience for those unaware of Islamic cultural contributions. The reaction of Hamline does harm not only because of the unjust treatment of the professor, but to their mission of expanding understanding and respect of diverse cultures.

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I don't give a flying f about being thoughtful and inclusive. This sums it up for me: "the ultimate betrayal of the promise of education when institutions of higher learning begin endorsing ignorance" and the small minority of students who raised this ruckus prefer ignorance to knowledge. That the administration would kowtow to them is shameful. To those who were offended I say, get a life.

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This professor had been both thoughtful and inclusive when saying aloud and on the syllabus that the image would be shown. "Thoughtful and inclusive" is not at odds with the "promise of education." Admin response could have been to research the image and have a conversation with the students. That would have been thoughtful and inclusive. The problem is that the admin response was was authoritarian, the exact opposite of "thoughtful and inclusive."

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This is one of the reasons college admissions are declining. Why take on such debt in order to accumulate very little knowledge.

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DEI is nothing more then a jobs program. I do not understand how these people got this experience that somehow justifies their power.

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THANK YOU for saying something that needed to be said. We're exhausted and annoyed with having to pamper a new generation of "entitled creatures" who take offense at any idea that veers by even the slightest degree away from their own. "Suck it up buttercup" should be our battle cry. It's no surprise that Hamline is not on any list of academically acclaimed or distinguished institutions. Then again, even the Ivy League has toppled from its claim to objective and independent thinking.

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I wonder why the aggrieved student was in an art class at all. If they were so easily upset, I wonder their reaction to Michaelangelo’s David? I’d like to know what this student’s grade was.

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Probably throwing a bomb at it.

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Thats why still islamic regions are in dark ages. And also professors must be a little bit clever to know that: Islam from the origin at pedophet mohammed's time to today is still enemy of humanity, art and science.

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At what point do we take responsibility for being offended because of our sensibilities and perceptions?

It’s not the responsibility of the world to not offend.

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DEI is inherently illiberal and totalitarian

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Excellent column. Thank you for speaking out.

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You voted for this and now you're getting it good and hard. Quit complaining.

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Who voted for it?

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Indeed. Liberalism of the supposed "good impulses behind DEI" as the poor gullible soul in a comment above puts it is nothing but totalitarianism in its chrysalis form: soon, the murderous black Stalinist will burst out.

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Jan 12, 2023·edited Jan 12, 2023

In 2010 I led evidence in a South African court that 'Judaism was not monolithic', or to use the parlance of Amma Khalid (see below) 'monothetic', i.e based on a single basic idea or principle. There were many different expressions of Judaism I told the court, in particular there were those who disputed claims made by the Orthodoxy regarding the origin of the Torah, as too were there divergences on issues of Sabbath observance.

The Torah itself was unclear and contradicted itself. Since the Haskalah (Jewish Enlightenment) or Reform, progressives such as myself believed in a 'separation between Synagogue and State'. Instead of upholding my right to privacy in the face of the obscene ecclesiastical charges and racist propositions put to me by Kahanovitz SC acting for apartheid media company, Media24, the court decided to adopt a moral position consistent with ultra-Orthodox, Rabbinical Judaism.

AJ Cheadle found that since I was a 'Jew in breach' of my alleged religion, I could not claim discrimination i.e. Antisemitism on the basis of the offensive inquiries and objections made by the respondent in the matter, who not only disputed my Jewishness but had proceeded to impugn whether or not I was indeed a Jew and outrageously denied they knew I was Jewish even though they were now insisting on authoring and issuing such inquiries.

Cheadle then claimed to reserve judgement in the doctrinal dispute, despite his open bias towards the respondent (who turned out to be his client) demonstrated by his adopting their position in the matter.

The company had initially objected to my attendance at a 'mixed race' music venue on the Sabbath, and appeared to also object to my use of a company vehicle on Shabbat, supposedly in contravention of Jewish law. My own pleadings in the matter were simply ignored and mocked, with the respondent's version of the case along with false and misleading narrative, uplifted and handed down.

Thus Cheadle upheld a claim inter alia, reiterating apartheid-era justifications for separate development, whilst proceeding to trash the findings of the Truth & Reconciliation Commission, an inquiry into gross violations of human rights under apartheid in which the company had essentially been found guilty as one of the 'handmaidens of the apartheid regime'.

The company also attacked my byline, infringed upon journalistic privilege, sought a gagging order, and made a number of frivolous and vexatious allegations regarding several interviews conducted with jazz musicians. In turn I accused the company of censorship, race profiling of readers, de facto newsroom segregation and denial of my rights as a journalist. Restrained from calling any witnesses in the matter, I was forced to lead my evidence from the witness box, sans an attorney.

I was not given leave to appeal nor even present when the decision was handed down and a petition to the Labour Appeal Court was turned down in my absence. You can access my case documents here. https://medialternatives.com/case/

Today I was thus surprised to find pretty much my own case regarding the racist Anti-Secular Inquisition by Media24, reiterated in support of an Art History Professor, cast out due to similar sensitivities to do with religion. It is a welcome respite from the machinations of the religious police and theocrats in my own country to read the argument in support of an Enlightenment in Islam.

Almost 17 years since the initial incident which led to my complaint being filed, I continue to condemn the anti-Secular, partisan,1994-denialist decision of the corrupt Labour Court of South Africa. I once again demand that my rights to an identity independent of the state's religious authorities and especially religious policing, be restored alongside my rights as a journalist.

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