Why are non-Muslim women wearing the hijab?
Christian college professor wearing headscarf put on leave.
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.Wheaton College, an evangelical Christian institution, has put one of its professors on administrative leave, apparently stemming from remarks that the political science associate professor made standing in solidarity with Muslims, the New York Times reports. The Illinois liberal arts college released a statement explaining that it supsended Larycia Hawkins for “significant questions regarding the theological implications,” of remarks she made in a Facebook post, opining that Muslims worship the “same God” as Christians. “As they participate in various causes, it is essential that faculty and staff engage in and speak about public issues in ways that faithfully represent the College’s evangelical Statement of Faith,” the statement said, the Times notes.
Larycia Hawkins, who is a Christian and an associate professor of political science at Wheaton College, a private evangelical school west of Chicago, was put on leave Tuesday. In recent days, she began wearing a hijab, the headscarf worn by some Muslim women, 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.
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.
With fears of terrorism simmering and Donald Trump calling for Muslims to be blocked from entering the United States, many American Muslims are on edge. 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. The following day, Wheaton issued a response, following “questions and media coverage related to statements some faculty members have made on social media regarding the relationship between Christianity and Islam.” “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 statement read. “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.
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.” 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. It’s a way in which you try not to oversexualize your body in your forms of dress.” For contemporary feminists – especially in the West – the concept can be difficult to accept, says Cynthia Eller, a professor of women and religion at Claremont Graduate University in California. “[The headscarf] is a very tormented issue for American feminists,” she says. “You want to support women who want to wear this as well as women who don’t. But the politics of the headscarf, especially in an American context … pushes the problem of male predatory sexuality back on women, [as though] women are supposed to dress in such way so as not to make themselves enticing to men.” “It would be very unfortunate if we decided as a society that the way to deal with predatory male sexuality would be to wear a hijab,” Professor Eller says.
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. Khan found herself the only hijabi girl at her new American school. “I experienced a great deal of discrimination due to my hijab,” Khan said in a statement. “In middle school, I was ‘Batman’ or ‘ninja’. 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. 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.
Another noted the hijab “kind of does the talking for you, it makes the first impression for you.” Muslim journalist Amarra Ghani told Slate that while she can accept what Professor Hawkins at Wheaton was trying to accomplish, “wearing [a headscarf] around as if to say ‘I understand your struggle, I understand what you’re going through and I am standing up with you’ isn’t something that can be accepted.” “Hawkins may be attacked, looked at differently, stopped at the airport – but at the end of it all, she will be able to leave her experiment,” she said. 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 … 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. To ensure the exercise does not become frivolous or meaningless, it should be less about the headscarf and more about interfaith dialogue, Khatri says. “I would suggest that [wearing a hijab] be part of a structured program with a debriefing after, where non-Muslims can express their concerns and questions, and someone who does wear hijab could help on that experience,” she says.
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