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Wheaton Professor Suspended After Wearing Headscarf And Declaring Solidarity With Muslims

By Mae Rice in News on Dec 16, 2015 4:50PM

Photos of Larycia Hawkins wearing her headscarf via Facebook

Wheaton College—a private, evangelical Christian college in Chicago’s west suburbs—has put a tenured professor on administrative leave because she wore a headscarf as part of her Christian advent devotion, in an effort to show solidarity with Muslims.

The political science professor, Larycia Hawkins, explained her choice in a recent Facebook post:

I stand in religious solidarity with Muslims because they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book. And as Pope Francis stated last week, we worship the same God.

But as I tell my students, theoretical solidarity is not solidarity at all. Thus, beginning tonight, my solidarity has become embodied solidarity.

As part of my Advent Worship, I will wear the hijab to work at Wheaton College, to play in Chi-town, in the airport and on the airplane to my home state that initiated one of the first anti-Sharia laws (read: unconstitutional and Islamophobic), and at church.

I invite all women into the narrative that is embodied, hijab-wearing solidarity with our Muslim sisters--for whatever reason. A large scale movement of Women in Solidarity with Hijabs is my Christmas ‪#‎wish‬ this year.

The college took issue with Hawkins’ claim that Muslims and Christians worship the same God, a controversial point in the theological world. They also took issue with the fact she did not discuss her statement or headscarf with administrators in advance.

"Wheaton College faculty and staff make a commitment to accept and model our institution's faith foundations with integrity, compassion and theological clarity," reads the college's latest statement on the issue. "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 in question is a 12-item “doctrinal statement”; each item on it begins with the all-caps declaration “WE BELIEVE.”

Hawkins will remain on administrative leave while the university gives her case a "full review."

Judging by the school's reaction to a recent editorial in the campus paper, the administration's perspective on interfaith solidarity has some nuance.

The campus paper, the Wheaton Record, published a piece last week called "An Open Letter to Leaders in the Evangelical Community," condemning comments from Liberty University’s chancellor, Jerry Falwell, encouraging students to arm themselves in order to “end those Muslims.”

In a response to this open letter, Wheaton issued another statement: "We celebrate our religious liberty as American citizens under the Constitution, and fervently defend the free exercise of that liberty by those of other faiths in the same way that we desire respect of and protection for our own religious liberty."

However, the statement also noted that “overtures of Christian friendship must be enacted with theological clarity as well as compassion.”