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San Francisco State University is investigating a professor, Maziar Behrooz, for showing an image of the prophet Muhammad in a course last fall on the history of Islam, according to the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression.

FIRE has criticized Hamline University in Minnesota for not renewing the contract of an adjunct for similar reasons.

“Here, Behrooz displayed a historical image depicting the Islamic prophet in a class session on the history of the Islamic world between 500 and 1700. Behrooz even reportedly explained to administrators that the type of drawing he showed can be bought at markets near holy shrines in Tehran, where Behrooz was born. But after a student complained in the fall, the institution chose to launch an investigation in March—months later. As we told SFSU, the university cannot investigate an instructor, which implies the potential of punishment, for displaying pedagogically relevant material in their classroom, regardless of whether it offends some, many, or most students,” said a FIRE press release.

FIRE sent a letter to the university demanding that it stop investigating Behrooz.

“Even if SFSU doesn’t ultimately formally punish Behrooz, investigation of clearly constitutionally protected speech can itself violate the First Amendment. The question is not whether the university formally punishes someone for their protected speech, but instead whether the institution’s actions will chill future speech. SFSU’s investigation almost certainly will,” FIRE added.

A spokesman for the university said via email, “SF State stands by its long commitment to academic freedom and freedom of expression. We are also committed to being a university where all students and employees have the right to learn and work in an environment that is free of discrimination, harassment, sexual misconduct and retaliation. While we cannot comment on specific reports or investigations, we can supply some information about our nondiscrimination policy. The university has a duty to respond to all reports of discrimination, harassment, sexual misconduct, sexual exploitation, dating violence, domestic violence, stalking and retaliation. When a complaint is reported to the university, our Equity Programs and Compliance Office is obligated to assess the report and provide outreach to the complainant named in the report. An investigation is opened if, accepting the reported conduct as true, it may constitute a violation of the nondiscrimination policy. It is important to note that in making this determination, the Title IX Coordinator/DHR Administrator does not make a qualitative assessment of the reported conduct and the opening of an investigation does not mean that any decision has been made that the respondent is in any way responsible.”