The Professor Suspended for Saying Muslims and Christians Worship One God
A Christian College Placed a Professor on Leave for Wearing a Hijab.
Wheaton College said the Professor Larycia Hawkins was not subjected to the disciplinary action for wearing the headscarf but for the explanation she posted on her Facebook page.Wheaton College students gathered Wednesday to protest the suspension of Larycia Hawkins, a tenured political science professor suspended from her position after voicing support for the U.S.Larycia Hawkins, who is a Christian and an associate professor of political science at Wheaton College in suburban Chicago, said Wednesday that her actions were demonstrations of her own faith. Now, she’s in hot water over a show of solidarity she made with Muslims last week. “I stand in religious solidarity with Muslims because they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book,” she said in a Dec. 10 Facebook post. “And as Pope Francis stated last week, we worship the same God.” To drive the point home, Hawkins also donned a hijab, the headscarf worn by devout Muslim women, and said she would wear it throughout the Advent season preceding Christmas. “[A]s I tell my students, theoretical solidarity is not solidarity at all.
Hawkins began wearing a hijab to counter what she called the “vitriolic” rhetoric against Muslims in recent weeks. “In the spirit of Advent, my actions were motivated by a desire to live out my faith. Four days after that statement, the college announced that Hawkins had been suspended, adding that she will be subject to a “full review to which she is entitled as a tenured faculty member.” In the same Facebook post, Hawkins encouraged women to wear a hijab in support of Muslims, and vowed to do so at work, throughout town, at social events, in airports, and on airplanes in the weeks leading up to Christmas. “I invite all women into the narrative that is embodied, hijab-wearing solidarity with our Muslim sisters–for whatever reason. A Wheaton College professor who has been placed on administrative leave after posting photos of herself in a traditional Muslim headscarf has become the latest non-Muslim to publicly wear the hijab to convey solidarity with those who practice Islam.
The college published a statement on its website saying: “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. “Some recent faculty statements have generated confusion about complex theological matters, and could be interpreted as failing to reflect the distinctively Christian theological identity of Wheaton College. “We will be in dialogue with our faculty, staff and students in the days ahead to ensure that we articulate our love for our Muslim neighbours in ways that are consistent with our distinctive theological convictions.” Students and faculty members have signed petitions and staged protests against the college’s decision, using the social media hashtag, #ReinstateDocHawk. They brought a letter that had been signed by over 100 students demanding Hawkins’ immediate reinstatement and an apology from President Ryken and Provost Jones. “In the midst of a toxic socio-political environment where Muslims are the target of stigmatization, acts of aggression, and proposed policy which targets and alienates them, Dr.
And while the act may have its limitations – some say it is reductionist, others that it could appear antifeminist – many say the practice is encouraging in a time of growing anti-Muslim sentiment. “I’m finding a lot of people are outraged by what they see as very bigoted rhetoric on the national scene. Unlike many other Christian schools, Wheaton requires all professors to sign a statement of faith, which affirms the literal truth of the Bible, the necessity of being “born again,” and other core tenets of evangelical Christianity. 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.
So I think people [do this] as their sense of defending the American ideal of religious pluralism, and the ethic of being welcoming to foreigners and people in need,” says Celene Ibrahim, a Muslim scholar and educator and member of the chaplaincy team at Tufts University in Somerville, Mass. Located in the Chicago suburbs, Wheaton College is a private four-year Evangelical Protestant Christian liberal arts college comprising of around 3,000 students.
A letter delivered by students to administrators maintains that Hawkins’ statement is acceptable under Wheaton’s official ideology. “We believe there is nothing in Dr. A spokesperson for Wheaton did not immediately return a request for comment. “We are not an institution that silences out of fear,” says sophomore Caitlin Post, who participated in the protest. “For an institution that seems to want headway on issues of diversity, this is about a thousand steps backwards.” It is the photos, however, that make Professor Hawkins part of a growing cohort of women and girls in the United States and elsewhere who, over the past few years, have used the headscarf as a means of identifying with the challenges hijabi women face. “It’s a really great interfaith activity,” says Faryal Khatri, communications assistant for the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) in Plainfield, Ind. “It’s a great way to open dialogue, a way to understand how really deeply it represents faith” to some Muslims. Hijab, an Arabic word that means “barrier” or “partition,” has long been misunderstood in Western cultures as a symbol of oppression – a way for Muslim men to express control over women’s bodies, says Professor Ibrahim at Tufts. “The hijab as it’s classically understood is not simply about covering the hair,” she says. “It’s about a particular type of presence that a woman carries into the public spaces that she occupies. Professor Hawkins and her supporters may wish to distract or may not even care, but Wheaton sets its hiring standards and requires fidelity to the Bible.
Professor Hawkins’ statement suggests a theological diversion not in keeping with Wheaton’s standards.” That’s why the college’s response isn’t just justified, but warranted. But although the statements of Wheaton’s administration have not been particularly warm to Hawkins’s experiment, it has not publicly expressed any objection to it. Hawkins’ suspension will last through the spring semester and sparked protests on the Wheaton College campus from students who called for her reinstatement, according to the Tribune. It would be great if men did the same thing.” Among the first to popularize the idea of non-Muslims wearing the hijab in solidarity is social activist Nazma Khan. Freelance journalist Felice León – who spent a day in New York City wearing a headscarf – found that the people closest to her were the ones who expressed “the strongest and most bigoted opinions,” she wrote for The Daily Beast.
At Vernon Hills High School in Chicago, the Muslim Student Association held a “Walk a Mile in Her Hijab” event last week to deepen understanding about Muslims and hijabi women, said Yasmeen Abdallah, a senior and the association’s president, to the Chicago Daily Herald. “You can’t really understand or judge a person and their beliefs until you understand why they do it and what it’s like for them to do what they’re doing,” Yasmeen, who is Muslim, said. One level, it is a question of semantics: If there is omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient God, he can at least hear the prayers of everyone on earth, even if they are misdirected. Besides an incident where a male student told one of the girls to remove her headscarf as he passed her in the hall, Yasmeen reported positive experiences among the participants. What that looks like in practice can be a source of discord within that community, and at times like this, a source of bafflement and mockery to outsiders. Part of the issue is that the headscarf means different things to different women, and those nuances are not always captured in a day-long experiment, says Ms.
Khatri at ISNA. “The hijab is an external manifestation of the belief,” she says. “When I wear it, it reminds me of my faith, of my connection to God. The school’s particular strain of evangelicalism is not for everyone—it does not even please all of its students and alumni—but it is also not a secret. (I have a political science degree from Wheaton, but I do not know Hawkins, who arrived there after I graduated.) Wednesday afternoon, about 100 people gathered on campus to protest Wheaton’s decision to suspend Hawkins.
She also proposes that women who want to understand Muslims engage real Muslim women in conversation before participating in events like “Wear a Hijab Day.” “I think they should reach out to someone who wears a headscarf, or spend a day with that person,” Khatri says. “The dialogue is much more important than the actual wearing of the scarf.
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