Today the suspension of a tenured political science professor at Wheaton College is making headlines, all because of a statement of solidarity she made with Muslim women on Facebook.
Dr. Larycia Hawkins, who is Christian and has been a professor at the evangelical Christian school for the past eight years, recently took to Facebook to post a picture of herself wearing a hijab with a caption explaining that she is in support of her Muslim neighbors and “stand[s] in religious solidarity. . . because they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book. And as Pope Francis stated last week, we worship the same God.”
In her post, she explained that she will be wearing the hijab as “embodied solidarity” to work and outside of work — including at church. She also invited other women to do the same, adding that she sought the advice of the Council on American Islamic Relations to ensure that her actions would not be considered patronizing or offensive to Muslims. ” I was assured by my friends at CAIR-Chicago that they welcomed the gesture,” Dr. Hawkins wrote. “So please do not fear joining this embodied narrative of actual as opposed to theoretical unity; human solidarity as opposed to mere nationalistic, sentimentality.”
However, shortly after her post, Dr. Hawkins was put on administrative leave by Wheaton College because the administration had “significant questions regarding the theological implications” of Dr. Hawkins’ post. “As they participate in various causes, it is essential that faculty and staff engage and speak about public issues in ways that faithfully represent the college’s evangelical Statement of Faith,” the statement said, according to the Chicago Daily Herald.
According to Wheaton College President Philip Ryken, the suspension was not due to Dr. Hawkins’ decision to wear a hijab. “[The college] has no stated position on the wearing of headscarves as a gesture of care and concern for those in Muslim or other religious communities that may face discrimination or persecution,” Ryken said, according to the Daily Herald. “We support the protection of all Americans including the right to the free exercise of religion, as guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States.”
However, the school does take issue with her statement in the Facebook post. “While Islam and Christianity are both monotheistic, we believe there are fundamental differences between the two faiths, including what they teach about God’s revelation to humanity, the nature of God, the path to salvation, and the life of prayer,” the school said in the statement.
Since the suspension, Dr. Hawkins has written a follow-up post on Facebook, explaining that the criticism she has received for her actions has been “almost exclusively from other Christians.” “The pushback has primarily centered on the claim that Christians and Muslims worship the same God,” she wrote. Adding that she asks forgiveness from those she may have offended but is still remaining steadfast in her beliefs and choices, she included a link to a Huffington Post article entitled “Do Christians and Muslims Worship the Same God?”
“My wearing of the hijab as an act of advent devotion has certainly caused some to question the sincerity of my devotion. To those who question the authenticity of my faith, I love you,” she wrote.
Dr. Hawkins’ leave will be pending a full review, and it’s unclear how long it will last or whether she will be paid.
(Image via Facebook.)