S4, Ep. 12: Accusations of religious bias on campus and in Congress

Amanda and Holly examine the under-discussed parts of two recent controversies

Feb 9, 2023

Accusations of antisemitism and Islamophobia tend to spark and exacerbate divisions in our world. Amanda and Holly discuss two recent controversies that featured accusations of religious bias: The removal of Rep. Ilhan Omar from a congressional committee and a depiction of the Prophet Muhammad shown in an art history class. They look at the under-discussed parts of these controversies, implications for the future, and how we balance the right to religious belief and expression with respect for others’ beliefs.


Segment 1 (starting at 00:55): A vote to remove Rep. Ilhan Omar from a congressional committee

Holly and Amanda discussed this article by Karoun Demirjian in The New York Times: House Ousts Ilhan Omar From Foreign Affairs Panel as G.O.P. Exacts Revenge

Amanda read a statement from former Rep. John Yarmuth via Twitter.

Segment 2 (starting at 11:39): A professor, ancient art and campus controversy

Amanda and Holly discussed this in-depth article by Vimal Patel in The New York Times on the controversy at Hamline University: A Lecturer Showed a Painting of the Prophet Muhammad. She Lost Her Job.

For more on blasphemy laws and BJC’s work against them:

Read the lawsuit filed by professor Erika López Prater, Ph.D., at this link.

Holly and Amanda mentioned this article by Yonat Shimron in Religion News Service: Hamline University retracts ‘Islamophobia’ charge as instructor sues

Segment 3 (starting at 31:12): What have we learned from these controversies? 

Holly mentioned a program called “Protecting Academic Freedom, Empowering Muslim Students After the Hamline Controversy,” led by Rutgers Law Professor Sahar Aziz for the Rutgers Center for Security, Race, and Rights. It is available to watch on YouTube.

Amanda mentioned this open letter from Muslims for Progressive Values.

Respecting Religion is made possible by BJC’s generous donors. You can support these conversations with a gift to BJC

Transcript: Season 4, Episode 12: Accusations of religious bias on campus and in Congress (some parts of this transcript have been edited for clarity)


Segment 1: A vote to remove Rep. Ilhan Omar from a congressional committee (starting at 00:55)

AMANDA: Welcome to Respecting Religion, a BJC podcast series where we look at religion, the law, and what’s at stake for faith freedom today. I’m Amanda Tyler, executive director of BJC.

HOLLY: And I’m general counsel Holly Hollman. Today we’re going to talk about two recent and unrelated controversies about religious beliefs, and particularly the way accusations of antisemitism, Islamophobia, and anti-Muslim sentiment can spark and exacerbate divisions in politics and the wider culture. Of course, we do this hoping that we can use the controversies to explore how we might have better conversations respecting religion and religious freedom.

AMANDA: Exactly, Holly. Here on Respecting Religion, we are not interested in highlighting every political fight. There are plenty of places to read about or hear discussions about our political divisions and the problems with polarization in American politics. But we are always interested in understanding religion in politics and sometimes, unfortunately, the lack of understanding and contradictions in our faith freedom nation.

HOLLY: These stories offer a lens to understand the public climate on religion and race and religious freedom, and I think we’ll begin with a story that developed nearby at the U.S. Capitol recently, and as some of the news articles mentioned, it was quite the way to cap off a month in this new Congress.

AMANDA: Yes. So just last week on February 2, the House took up a resolution to remove Representative Ilhan Omar from her assignment to the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Representative Omar represents the 5th Congressional District of Minnesota and has since she was first elected in 2018. When she was elected, she was one of the first two Muslim American women elected to Congress. She is a Somali immigrant, and she was the first to wear the hijab on the House floor.

HOLLY: I remember that back in 2018 when she was first elected, and there were quite a few stories marking that kind of landmark election for our country, to have that kind of representation in Congress.

AMANDA: She attracted quite a bit of attention since she served, in part for some comments that she made which were attacked by people on both sides as being antisemitic, and she then apologized for some of those comments and worked to rebuild relationships with people, including within her own party.

So as we talk about this vote and the debate on the House floor, we’re going to reference an article from The New York Times which we will link in show notes. The title of the article is “House Ousts Ilhan Omar From Foreign Affairs Panel as GOP Exacts Revenge.”

So a few points to make about this particular event in Congress. One, I think that this debate attracted attention from a lot of political reporters because it was the first test of new Speaker McCarthy’s narrow majority. There was some talk that some Republican members were saying they wanted to vote ‘No’ on this resolution, and so he had to do some political deal-making just to keep his party together, and so we had people paying attention for that reason.

Second, it was seen by many as McCarthy delivering on one of his promises that he made in order to get the speakership in the first place. Some people saw it as a revenge vote for the removal by then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Representatives Gosar and Greene from their committee assignments. And just as a quick reminder, that vote was taken because of social media posts that those representatives had made, endorsing violence against Democrats.

Interestingly, maybe, Representative McCarthy — or Speaker McCarthy — was not present on the House floor during this debate. Instead running debate for the House Republicans was a freshman member of Congress, Representative Max Miller, who is a member representing a district in Ohio, and he himself is Jewish. He’s the one who filed the resolution and was handling debate for the Republicans.

There were not many Republicans at all on the House floor for this debate, but there were many Democrats. A lot of the Democratic caucus showed up for Representative Omar, and many of them spoke on her behalf, defending her and saying that she should not be removed from her committee assignment.

HOLLY: I agree that that Times article really gives a nice overview. And, Amanda, we talked about it in the office, because you had actually watched the debate as it happened. And interestingly, I heard the replayed debate on C-SPAN on my way to church on Sunday morning. I know that sounds odd, but we have this family tradition of listening to the local public radio classical music station on Sunday morning. That’s a good way ‑‑

AMANDA: To center yourself, get ready for your experience.

HOLLY: Yeah — there’s got to be one day of the week where, you know, you turn off your other media and have a different experience. And unfortunately that station is very close to C‑SPAN radio, and so I accidentally listened to some C-SPAN, and it did draw me in. I was like, “What is this debate?” And then I recognized it for what it was, and so I listened to this very spirited debate, as you said, mostly Democrats speaking, some Republicans, but fewer. And really it was a passionate debate, and, I think, pretty enlightening.

You mentioned a lot of the political implications of the debate and what it says about the new leadership and why they did this. From my view, I think it’s fair to say that there are two big points that came out of what I heard that morning.

And one is that there are quite easy charges to make of hypocrisy — blatant hypocrisy — calling out a particular member for something that she had apologized for and has been very responsive to criticism versus not calling out on the other side statements that are clearly inflammatory, having to do with or people sort of aligning themselves with antisemitic or white supremacist rhetoric.

So that was a key part of what we heard in the debate. And, secondly, it stood out that there was such a wide variety of members, even on the Democratic side, people from different parts of the country and very different perspectives that noted Representative Omar’s talent and her contributions to Congress and really calling out this action as unfair and taking up for her character, in ways that you could see, okay, we can criticize someone’s particular mistakes, but that this person had something to offer, very valuable perspective, particularly on this committee about foreign affairs.

AMANDA: Yes. And she was poised to be the ranking Democrat on a subcommittee dealing with Africa and herself an immigrant from Africa, you know, here was an opportunity, I think, to make a difference on that committee that was being taken away from her by this vote.

In watching the debate, I had a patriotic moment of seeing religious diversity expressed on the Congress floor when you had people who were speaking there as Christians, as Jews, as Muslims, all talking and having that faith freedom. It was a faith freedom moment to see religious diversity expressed in that way as well.

And I think why it’s important to point that out again is that by calling out, by singling out her antisemitic remarks and saying that those were deserving of this particular punishment here, by removing her from a committee — again years after the fact, after she had apologized and said she’d learned from some of those comments — was really exacerbating this misunderstanding and some divisions between Muslims and Jews. And so, to have Jewish members of Congress speaking in her defense, I think, was particularly effective.

And I thought also echoed in comments made on Twitter later by former Congressman John Yarmuth who represented a district in Kentucky for many years, was widely respected across party lines, and who is himself Jewish, and I just wanted to read what he wrote on Twitter.

He said, “I served with Ilhan Omar and spoke to her about her attitude about Jews and Israel. As a Jew, I’m convinced she is not antisemitic. She has been very critical of many Israeli policies. I have said many of the same things she has said. No one has accused me of being antisemitic. Questioning Israeli policies is not antisemitic. It is being a responsible member of Congress. Too many members think Israel is always right, and they’re not. Ilhan calls them out when she believes they are wrong, as she should.”

And, you know, I think that these are comments, again not getting into the specifics of politics about Israel or policies the U.S. Congress is making, but I think it’s important to have this religious diversity and to have these points made in her defense, because there were so many comments made on the other side that were trying to justify this removal from the committee.

HOLLY: Yeah. Well, just like you had this patriotic moment of just seeing the diversity and hearing people talk about their different perspectives and realizing that they are represented there in Congress, I took away the fact that they talked about Representative Omar with respect and having watched her in her district. And so you could tell that people learned about religion and different perspectives by getting to know the diverse members within the body. And so I thought that that was really powerful.

And lastly, I think that spirited debate was somewhat inspired by her own words and her unwillingness to feel marginalized, so if the intent was to marginalize this voice, she made very clear that she could handle it. And part of her statement on the floor, she said very clearly, “I am Muslim. I am an immigrant. And interestingly, from Africa. … Take your vote or not –- I am here to stay.”

So while this was a really divisive and somewhat ugly incident in this new Congress, you know, there were some positive aspects of that, and that was a remarkable unity across a religiously diverse caucus in standing up for Representative Omar and continuing to try to move forward.


Segment 2: A professor, ancient art and campus controversy (starting at 11:59)

HOLLY: Well, the other controversy that we wanted to discuss today was one that has been unfolding over the last several months. And it first came to my attention in conversations online about free speech and academic freedom. It’s a story out of Hamline University, a private university in St. Paul, Minnesota.

At Hamline, a dispute erupted when an adjunct professor teaching global art history class ‑‑ she was teaching a class online and included a piece of Islamic art in a class that had a depiction of the Prophet Muhammad. And after this, a big controversy ensued that involved debate among Muslim students, past university treatment of students, the treatment of adjunct professors, free speech, academic freedom, all kinds of issues.

But it’s something that I thought deserved a conversation with you, Amanda. And I will again refer to a pretty comprehensive piece in The New York Times on this controversy. I think The Times did a really good job interviewing a lot of different people about this dispute and seeing the controversy from many different angles.

It comes to our attention on Respecting Religion because the artwork at issue with the depiction of Prophet Muhammad is controversial to many Muslims who have deeply held religious beliefs that prohibit depictions of the Prophet Muhammad, and this issue requires us to look at the specific context of this depiction and when and how such depictions may be acceptable and understood and part of a liberal arts education as you might find on a private university in a global art class.

Specifically what happened is that the teacher including this piece of art — which we know now is something that is often used in art history classes, but she was quite aware that this could be difficult for some students and that she gave extensive warnings about her intent to use this, so that if anyone had questions before she showed the piece, that they could bring those up, that they could also turn off their screens because this was an online class, just a lot of things that appear to have shown great sensitivity to this issue before the class presentation.

But after the class, it is reported that a senior in the class, later joined by other students, complained and reported the professor, called it an attack on their religion, and saw it as malicious. And the university unfortunately immediately took the students’ side and failed to really take cognizance of the fact that this was a global art class and the context and all of the things that the professor had done. So, things sort of spun out of control, and you can read all about it in this Times piece.

But what I saw was immediately conversations among professors, talking about how it is unfortunate when efforts to be more inclusive, to have more conversation involving a variety of perspectives ‑‑ in this case, Islamic art ‑‑ then lead to a backlash and misunderstanding from students who might be, you know, concerned about their marginalization or how they’ve been treated.

And, you know, there’s some aspects of this story to show something else was going on. It wasn’t just this particular event, but maybe students were reacting to some prior matters on campus.

AMANDA: Yeah. I think this controversy ‑‑ or through reading about this controversy, through preparing for this conversation with you, Holly, I’ve learned a lot about religion, but I’ve also learned quite a bit about art history.

HOLLY: It’s been a while since we got to take these classes. Right?

AMANDA: Exactly. And this artwork that is at issue here, it is part of something called A Compendium of Chronicles from the 14th century. It was painted by an Islamic artist. It was commissioned by an Islamic government. I think that this context is important, because it is, as you noted, an attempt to — as the Times article calls it — to decolonize the canon, to include a more diverse array of subjects studied in art history, to not have only European artists, for instance, or white European artists being portrayed in some of this artwork or the artists that we’re studying, and that it seemed like the professor here, the adjunct professor, was doing everything right.

She was cognizant of the views that are held by some but not all Muslims, that it is against their religion to view the Prophet in any artwork or in any representation, and so she was warning about that before she showed it. And yet this sensitivity to religion and this attempt to show a wider diversity of artwork really did backfire in this situation and led to her firing by the university.

HOLLY: And before they got there ‑‑ and it says this dispute continues ‑‑ the sort of what sounds like a kind of knee-jerk reaction really sort of was taken to a higher ‑‑ or I should say, a lower level, because, I think, maybe the dean of students sent an email, condemning this classroom incident.

So this is an email that’s widely distributed, saying that an unfortunate act had happened in the classroom, that it was a disrespectful Islamophobic act. And I think that charge is what really, you know, made this controversy so much more hurtful, because you can imagine a misunderstanding.

You can imagine a complaint from a student being taken very seriously and having a chance to talk through it, to have an understanding of what the professor was doing and what the student felt without it getting to this terrible place of charging in a public forum a claim of Islamophobia against a professor who by all reports seems to have been very sensitive to this event.

That happened, and then there was more conversation. I think there was a forum on campus to really listen to Muslim students about issues that happened on campus. And that’s where I think the article is helpful in saying that there had been, you know, prior problems that perhaps the university was reacting to inappropriately in this instance, problems maybe where students were not felt [as] fully members of the community, some because of their treatment by other students as opposed to any professional member of the faculty or adjunct faculty.

Of course, that reaction, you know, had an immediate impact on that adjunct professor and started, of course, her defense, her going to see lawyers, figuring out what she’s going to do next, knowing that she’s not going to have a job. But it also inspired a lot of conversations from Muslim organizations, both there in Minnesota and nationally.

AMANDA: That’s right. And, you know, I mentioned that I learned a lot about art history, but I also learned more about Islam and the diversity within the Muslim community on this particular question even of the portrayal of the Prophet in art. And I think one thing to note is that there are differences of opinion, but that the majority of Muslim groups who spoke out on this topic were actually speaking up on behalf of the professor.

They did not agree with the university, that this was an example of Islamophobia. In doing so, they were drawing the distinction, the important distinction between something which is un-Islamic and Islamophobic. And I wanted to quote here directly from that long feature in The New York Times. They quoted here Edward Ahmed Mitchell, the deputy executive director of the national chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations.

And he first said he did not have enough information to comment on the dispute itself. He said that his group, CAIR — the acronym that the group goes by — his group discourages visual depictions of the Prophet. He said there was a difference between an act that was un-Islamic and one that was Islamophobic.

He described it this way: “If you drink a beer in front of me, you’re doing something that is un‑Islamic, but it’s not Islamophobic. If you drink a beer in front of me because you’re deliberately trying to offend me, well, then maybe that has an intent factor.”

HOLLY: Uh‑huh.

AMANDA: “Intent and circumstances matter,” he said, “especially in a university setting where academic freedom is critical and professors often address sensitive and controversial topics.”

So I thought that that was a really interesting ‑‑

HOLLY: Helpful.

AMANDA: — and helpful distinction there, and also this idea of something being un-Islamic. That is, you know, to draw a comparison to people claiming that something is unchristian. Well, there’s a lot of different ways of being Christian. Right?

HOLLY: Right, right.

AMANDA: And there are a lot of different ways of being Muslim. And so we’re also painting with a pretty broad brush here about what exactly is un-Islamic. But the fact that the teacher here did not appear to have any intent to disparage or discriminate against Muslim students and particularly Muslim students who had this religious belief about the depictions of Muhammad, that these Muslim advocacy groups did not find her actions to be Islamophobic.

HOLLY: And that’s a really clarifying point, as well as again thinking about the context ‑‑ university setting, a class on global art ‑‑ you know, the context of trying to provide an education, a well-rounded education and the way religion comes up in lots of different varieties and needs to be talked about with sensitivity, but also with inclusion and understanding these different perspectives.

And that’s very important to us and part of why, I think, this controversy was something that we wanted to talk about. While BJC primarily focuses on protecting religious freedom at home, we are aware of how our religious freedom discussions in this country are shaped by our understandings of religious freedom abroad and the problems that we see abroad.

And for many years, BJC has spoken out against laws across the world that prevent religious freedom, that make blasphemy a crime with great punishments. And this controversy kind of reminded us of that and how important it is to stand up against efforts by government to narrowly define religion and punish people for having the wrong religious views.

Of course, while we talk about this mostly from our American perspective and different parts of the world protect religion differently, it is important to note that this is a universal human right, and that there has been this kind of universal agreement on what that means.

AMANDA: And we wanted to bring up this topic of blasphemy as part of this particular Hamline University controversy, because we think it’s an under-discussed part of this controversy ‑‑

HOLLY: Right.

AMANDA: — that this idea of blasphemy that’s being raised in this nongovernmental area here ‑‑ right? ‑‑

HOLLY: Right.

AMANDA: — at this private university in an employment dispute that they’re having with their adjunct professor and these issues of academic freedom, but even in a country that doesn’t have a national blasphemy law ‑‑

HOLLY: We have our challenges, our free speech challenges, our responsibility challenges, important discussions about self-censorship, when it’s appropriate and when it’s not, and I think this controversy touches on a lot of these really important issues that we care about.

AMANDA: And, Holly, we know that many religious people have things that they find blasphemous. And that’s not the problem. We’re not worried about ‑‑ people can still have things that they find blasphemous. The problem is when the government gets involved by passing a blasphemy law and by enforcing a blasphemy law. But a blasphemy law ultimately stifles religious expression.

If there are things a person cannot say due to a law because another person finds it blasphemous, we lose the ability to deepen our own faith through questioning. And we care about ensuring that true freedom of religion, even if it’s a religion different from ours. That’s something key to this conversation we’re having.

HOLLY: As well as keeping the peace in a diverse, religiously diverse country as ours.

AMANDA: And there are so many gifts of living in a religiously diverse country that has, again relative to the rest of the world, very robust religious freedom, and I think it also shows some of the challenges ‑‑ right? ‑‑ the potential pitfalls, the misunderstandings, the ways that this can feel harmful to people.

And I think what we should not do as a result of a controversy here like we had at Hamline University is to speak less about religion in the public square. I think there would be one reaction to say, We don’t want to offend; we don’t want to step on someone’s toes and their particular ‑‑ we don’t want to violate someone’s religious viewpoint; we don’t want to lead them to go against their religious dictates, so we’re just going to keep religion totally out of the classroom. I think that would be a mistake.

I think, instead, if we can learn from the controversy, if we can understand how to be more inclusive, how to be more tolerant, how to be more understanding and knowledgeable, too, about religious views, then we’ll be better for it.

I think it is helpful if we define what we’re talking about. In general, blasphemy laws prohibit criticism of religion, denigration of religion, or criticisms of religious symbols or language. And the language of each law is going to be important to look at as are definitions. And it’s also important to note that many countries that have blasphemy laws do not typically enforce them.

Blasphemy laws are on the books in more than one-third of the world’s countries, and they exist in both hemispheres and in democracies and dictatorships. In seven countries, the death penalty is a possible punishment for blasphemy.

HOLLY: One of our advocacy goals has been congressional resolutions that clearly state Congress’s opposition to blasphemy laws and to urge the State Department to encourage other countries to do away with blasphemy laws as a way of protecting human rights. I mean, we know that we can’t force other countries to change their laws, but we, through Congress and through the State Department, can remind them of their obligations under the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights, which includes a strong statement that all people have the right to choose their faith, what their faith tradition will be and how to express their faith, including the ability to reject any faith tradition.

AMANDA: And that makes sense, because blasphemy laws at their core stifle religious expression and are at odds with religious freedom. We have room for all different kinds of expressions and views about religion when the government stays out of religion. And it’s not the government’s job to enforce one view of religion and religious expression.

And if you want to learn a lot more about blasphemy laws and about why we at BJC oppose them, we are going to link in show notes to an article about our colleague, BJC associate general counsel Jennifer Hawkes speaking at a congressional briefing on this topic in 2018, as well as a piece that she wrote on this topic.

HOLLY: I think we should also link to Article 18 of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights that reminds us of the importance of this freedom, and it clearly states that everyone should have religious freedom as a basic human right.

AMANDA: And so on Respecting Religion, we obviously, Holly, respect religion. We want to see more religious expression ‑‑

HOLLY: That’s right.

AMANDA: — not less.

HOLLY: And we recognize, it is not without danger in these times, as this dispute shows. And as I mentioned earlier, this did lead, of course, to the professor having to look out for herself, and her being sort of the target of some unfortunate statements, and she did seek counsel and has now filed a complaint against the university. Her contract was not renewed.

These adjunct professor contracts are usually year-to-year. But it was clear, at least from her perspective, that she was not asked back because of this incident. So she now has a lawsuit against the university, and we can link in the show notes information about that.

And interestingly, the conversation continued on campus, and there was some improvement of dialogue, and the university actually changed its tune.

AMANDA: They did, and here we learned about this from reporting from Religion News Service, and we will link to their article as well in show notes here. I think on the same day that the professor filed her lawsuit, Hamline University issued a statement, retracting its earlier statement that had called her comments Islamophobic.

In the statement made by the chairwoman of Hamline University board of trustees’ Ellen Watters in a joint statement with the university’s president said, “Based on all that we have learned, we have determined that our usage of the term ‘Islamophobic’ was therefore flawed.”

So this is a pretty major admission, I think, and a big change from what had been a very strong statement the university first made, and I think also shows some humility here, “based on all that we have learned,” that they had learned something about Islamophobia, about Islam, about various representations, maybe about this particular controversy, that might counsel some moving more slowly in the future, too, to learn more before labeling something as Islamophobic.


Segment 3: What have we learned from these controversies? (starting at 31:12)

HOLLY: Well, it makes sense that the university would have something different to say after doing more fact-finding and having a little more time, the benefit of hearing from, I’m sure, the community at large. And now with this lawsuit, it reminds us, too, that while we know a good bit about this controversy and it had been going on for a few months before we had this extensive reporting by The New York Times that gives us one view of the facts, when you have a lawsuit, there are claims and a process for discovery to find out if those claims are valid.

And so in addition to, I think, a defamation claim about her being accused of Islamophobia, she has also claimed now to be the victim of religious discrimination. I think that that’s some kind of charge that means that she was treated differently or assumed to be doing something different because she was not a Muslim, and, you know, whether that claim is valid and how it sticks will be looked at in the process of litigation. Maybe this will go forward. Maybe it will be resolved out of court. That remains to be seen.

But I agree that we have come a long way from how this dispute was originally reported. And I’m hopeful, hopeful that it can be something that universities learn from, perhaps people from diverse religious backgrounds can learn from, and how they treat each other, and how they understand each other.

So in addition to looking at this more closely through that article, Amanda, that you mentioned that had that headline that said, “A Lecturer Showed a Painting of the Prophet Muhammad. She Lost Her Job,” and now you all know that there’s much more to this article, in addition to that, if you’re very interested, I would recommend a program that was put on at the University of Rutgers Law School by Professor Sahar Aziz.

She is a professor who specializes in the area of civil rights and race and religion, and she heads a program called the Center for Security, Race and Rights. And I appreciated that she spoke up in this controversy right away, among colleagues who are interested, not only in religious freedom and issues for Muslim students, but also concerns about adjunct faculty and the problems and the commodification of education. And she put on a program called “Protecting Academic Freedom, Empowering Muslim Students After the Hamline Controversy.”

And I think that’s available as a source of understanding this controversy more explicitly and from a Muslim perspective, what that sounds like, and a Muslim academic perspective.

AMANDA: I was really pleased to see that Professor Aziz did that program, and in fact, I know Sahar because she was a law school classmate of mine, and I have also had the opportunity to do some recent work with her. And she just published a new book through the University of California Press titled, The Racial Muslim: When Racism Quashes Religious Freedom.

These two controversies that we’ve discussed today involving Representative Omar and Hamline University have a common takeaway for our work. We need to carefully evaluate accusations of religious bias, whether they’re about antisemitism, Islamophobia, or about the targeting of other religious groups or the nonreligious. And we can treat these accusations seriously without accepting every accusation as legitimate. That’s difficult work, I acknowledge, but it is one way of respecting religion.

Finally, we need to recognize our place as Baptists, discussing issues impacting religious minorities in this country. We need to take a posture of learning about other religions as we continue our long-standing work expressing our solidarity with Jewish groups, Muslim groups, and interreligious coalitions, groups such as the Shoulder to Shoulder Campaign.

We can have an increased understanding of religion and particularly intra-religious difference, differences among Muslims, for instance ‑‑

HOLLY: Uh‑huh.

AMANDA: — and more understanding of and appreciation for Islam, a religion that many Americans really don’t know much about, that has been very unfortunately and dangerously characterized in ways that have led to anti-Muslim discrimination and violence, but that there has been an opportunity for Muslims to speak out and to teach about their faith in the context of this controversy.

And I want to link in particular in show notes to an open letter to Hamline University from Muslims For Progressive Values. It’s a four-page letter that is written not just to Hamline University but also to the public and, in certain places, to Muslims in particular. And I learned quite a bit more about some Muslim values in reading this piece in a way that was very enlightening to me, and I wanted to share in the podcast notes for others, that I think that we can have a more nuanced understanding of another beautiful faith through the lens of this really unfortunate controversy.

HOLLY: That brings us to the close of this episode of Respecting Religion. Thanks for joining us for today’s conversation. For details on what we discussed, including links to the articles we mentioned, check out our show notes.

AMANDA: If you enjoyed today’s show, share this program with others on social media and tag us. We’re on Twitter, Instagram and YouTube @BJContheHill, and you can follow me on Twitter @AmandaTylerBJC.

HOLLY: As always, you can email both of us by writing to [email protected]. We love hearing from you.

AMANDA: Thank you for supporting this program. You can visit our show notes for a link to donate to support this podcast and keep it free of sponsored content. And for more episodes, you can see a full list of shows, including transcripts, by visiting RespectingReligion.org.

HOLLY: We encourage you to take a moment to find out more about BJC and how we’ve been working for faith freedom for all since 1936. Visit our website at BJCOnline.org for a look at what we do and some of our latest projects

AMANDA: Join us on Thursdays for new conversations Respecting Religion.