The Volokh Conspiracy
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San Francisco State Univ. Investigating Professor For Showing Image of Muhammad in Class
From the Chronicle of Higher Education (Emma Pettit):
Maziar Behrooz, an associate professor of history at San Francisco State University, does not yet know what a teaching decision he made might cost him.
In the fall of 2022, Behrooz was teaching the history of the Islamic world between 500 and 1700 and showed a drawing of the Prophet Muhammad. He's taught the course, and the image, for years. One student, a devout Muslim, strongly objected, outside of class. His main point, Behrooz told The Chronicle, was that it's not permissible for an image of the Prophet Muhammad to be shown in any shape or form.
"This is the first time that this has happened," Behrooz said. "I was not prepared for somebody to be offended, in a secular university, talking about history rather than religion."
Behrooz said he told the student that, as the professor, he is the one who decides what's shown in class. The student then complained to Behrooz's department chair, who broached the issue with the professor, according to Behrooz. He said he explained to his chair that the student's view is not uniform among all Muslims. The type of drawing he shows in class can be bought at markets in Tehran near holy shrines. Many Shiite Muslims have such drawings on walls in their homes, said Behrooz, who was born in Tehran and has written books on Iran's political history.
The student also apparently complained to "authorities higher up" at the university, according to Behrooz. The professor said the institution's office of Equity Programs & Compliance informed him in March that it would investigate the incident and asked him to attend a Zoom meeting.
The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression wrote today to SFSU arguing that even the investigation itself tends to chill academic freedom; it also has a blog post about the case.