This post originally appeared on AddicitngInfo.org.
A tenured associate professor at Wheaton College recently began to wear a hijab to show solidarity with Muslims, but was shut down by the evangelical Christian school for daring to say that Christians and Muslims worshipped the same God.
Larycia Hawkins is a Christian herself, and wanted to wear the hijab during Advent to show her support for Muslims and take a stand against the increasing Islamophobia they’ve faced in America. After getting input from the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) to ensure that a non-Muslim wearing a hijab wouldn’t be offensive, Hawkins took her show of solidarity to Facebook. She wrote:
“I love my Muslim neighbor because s/he deserves love by virtue of her/his human dignity. I stand in human solidarity with my Muslim neighbor because we are formed of the same primordial clay, descendants of the same cradle of humankind–a cave in Sterkfontein, South Africa that I had the privilege to descend into to plumb the depths of our common humanity in 2014. They, like me, a Christian, are people of the book. And as Pope Francis stated last week, we worship the same God.”
It was a beautiful, heartfelt post that should have been met with respect and praise. Instead, Hawkins was placed on administrative leave for the “significant questions regarding the theological implications of statements that Associate Professor of PoliticalScience Dr. Larycia Hawkins has made about the relationship of Christianity to Islam.”
On the school’s website, the college stated that Hawkins’ statement about Muslims and Christians worshipping the same God “have generated confusion about complex theological matters, and could be interpreted as failing to reflect the distinctively Christian theological identity of Wheaton College.”
“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 day after she was placed on administrative leave, Hawkins spoke to the media about why she felt the college had suspended her. She said, “I think Wheaton takes very seriously its role as a Christian liberal arts institution, and I think Wheaton feels it’s doing its job on behalf of the constituency it serves, and I respect the institution.”
But a suspension isn’t going to make her remove her hijab, and she’s vowed to keep wearing it through the Christmas holiday. Many ministers, students and alumni at the school are standing behind Hawkins and asking the college to reinstate her. Hawkins supporter and graduate Clara Kent said, “We believe the college acted out of reaction, of fear rather than reason.”
Student Matthew Adams said, “Jesus Christ called us to love our brothers and sisters and that’s what Doctor Hawkins is trying to do.”
Although Hawkins had received a lot of support, there’s also been backlash – although Hawkins says it’s been “exclusively from other Christians.” She said, “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.”
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