Violence Against Muslim Women Is Racist and Misogynist
A Christian College Placed a Professor on Leave for Wearing a Hijab.
An evangelical Christian college in Illinois suspended a political science professor on Thursday after she wrote a Facebook post saying that Muslims and Christians worship the same god. 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.
The professor, who is Christian, had said she planned to wear a hijab, the Muslim headscarf, to express solidarity with Muslims in the U.S. who have been the target of an Islamophobic backlash after recent attacks in Paris and San Bernadino, California. Larycia Hawkins, an associate professor of political science at Wheaton College, posted a photo of herself in the Muslim head cover last week, stating that she stands in “human solidarity” with Muslims “because we are formed of the same primordial clay.” It didn’t take long for Wheaton College to respond, issuing a statement later that day which said it had received inquiries about remarks on social media by “some faculty members” who had spoken about the relationship between Christianity and 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.
She pledged to wear it throughout the Advent season, including while she teaches at the Illinois liberal-arts college, and while flying to her home state of Oklahoma, which in 2010 passed a constitutional amendment banning its courts from considering Islamic Sharia law in decisions. 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. The Chicago chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) is calling for Hawkins’ reinstatement, describing the college’s move as “unfathomable.” “This was a genuine act of human solidarity, rooted in her sense of theological compassion, with those who are subjected to an onslaught of bigoted expression,” CAIR-Chicago Executive Director Ahmed Rehab said in a statement. “When Dr. 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.
For instance, in recent weeks, a Somali restaurant in North Dakota was set on fire, a Muslim shopkeeper in New York was brutally beaten and two women were verbally assaulted at a restaurant in Texas. The Muslim advocacy group Council on Islamic-American Relations (CAIR) has said that while it does not have exact figures, anti-Islamic attacks are at an all time high. 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.
He told The Independent yesterday that he was “very surprised” by the College’s reaction. “Scholars of religion all acknowledge – universally – that the roots of the three religious traditions are the same” he said. “Christianity, Judaism and Islam belong to the same family of faiths.” 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. Hawkins also wrote in her original Facebook post that she reached out to CAIR to ask whether wearing the hijab as a non-Muslim was “haram (forbidden), patronizing, or otherwise offensive to Muslims.” Hawkins will be on paid leave through the end of the spring semester. (A spokesperson for Wheaton did not reply to a request for comment sent yesterday afternoon.) There has been plenty of misleading, and even flat-out false, coverage of Hawkins’s suspension; headlines like “A Christian College Placed a Professor on Leave for Wearing a Hijab” are apparently too clickable to resist. 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. 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.
The phrase “people of the book,” which Hawkins deployed in her statement, is used in the Koran to describe Christians, Jews, and Muslims, who are all said to worship the Abrahamic God. Muslamic, sees the whole endeavor as “a reductive and superficial exercise.” In a post on World Hijab Day 2014, she writes: [E]ven though the day is ostensibly about Muslim women and their experiences … 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.
Other students and alumni started a petition to reinstate “Doc Hawk.” That evening at a press conference in Chicago, Hawkins reaffirmed the original goal of her gesture, and said she will continue to wear the hijab until Christmas. “This Advent, I’m standing up with my Muslim neighbors out of my love for Jesus and the love I believe he had for all of the world,” she told reporters. “And I’m not alone in this.” 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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