Illinois’s Wheaton College has placed a tenured professor on leave after she decided to wear a hijab in solidarity with Muslim women.
Larycia A. Hawkins, an associate professor of political science at the evangelical Christian college, announced her decision on Facebook last week. As a display of solidarity with Muslim women, she planned to wear the head scarf at all times — at work, at church, and at the airport when she flies home.
“I stand in religious solidarity with Muslims because they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book,” she wrote. “And as Pope Francis stated last week, we worship the same God.”
Wheaton administrators questioned the theological implications of her remarks, saying Ms. Hawkins had misinterpreted the relationship between Christianity and Islam.
“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,” Wheaton said in a written statement.
At Chicago’s St. Martin Episcopal Church on Sunday, parishioners applauded Ms. Hawkins’s gesture, the Chicago Tribune reports. They talked about their own efforts to support their Muslim neighbors during the service. Ms. Hawkins said that was the reaction she expected.
“I do care about my Christian brothers and sisters, and I didn’t set out to offend them,” she told the Tribune. “My position has been held for centuries.”
Before announcing her decision, Ms. Hawkins said, she asked staff members at the Council on American Islamic Relations whether the Muslim community would see her gesture as patronizing or offensive. According to Ms. Hawkins’s Facebook post, the council’s staff members said they would welcome the gesture. And now they are denouncing Wheaton’s decision to place Ms. Hawkins on leave.
“It’s disappointing that showing solidarity means that you are somehow sacrificing your own identity,” Renner Larson, communications director for the council’s Chicago chapter, told the Tribune. “I do what I do not to be closer to Islam but because it makes me closer to my identity as an American who believes in American ideals.”