SunTimes: Suspended Wheaton College professor ‘standing up’ with Muslim neighbors

A Wheaton College associate professor placed on administrative leave after declaring on social media that Muslims and Christians share the same God says she’ll continue to wear a hijab until Christmas to show solidarity with Muslims in America.

“My actions were motivated by a desire to live out my faith. Period. And live out my faith in solidarity with my neighbor, who is Muslim. That’s what this is about,” Larycia Hawkins said Wednesday in her first public statement following her suspension.

Hawkins, the first African-American woman to become a tenured professor at the college, has been a political science professor at Wheaton since 2007. On Dec. 10, she posted photos of herself on Facebook and Twitter wearing a headscarf.

“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,” Hawkins wrote in her Facebook post.

Hawkins said she was called into the provost’s office on Tuesday and told she was under administrative review and placed on administrative leave until the end of the spring semester.

“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,” Hawkins told reporters at the Chicago Temple on Wednesday. “And I’m not alone in this.”

Hawkins said the movement was sparked by a conversation with a student who wanted to show solidarity with Muslims by wearing a hijab.

The college released a statement on Tuesday night saying Hawkins was placed on administrative leave “in response to significant questions regarding the theological implications of statements . . . made about the relationship of Christianity to Islam.”

The statement also said it’s “essential” for faculty and staff at the college to engage in and speak about public issues “in ways that faithfully represent the College’s evangelical Statement of Faith.”

On Wednesday, Hawkins stood surrounded by members of Arise Chicago and current and former students, who pledged their support for the professor, and also asked for the college to not only reinstate Hawkins but to offer a public apology.

“Dr. Larycia Hawkins, the first black faculty female member to be tenured at Wheaton College has consistently embodied what Wheaton students hope for from their professor, a deep faith matched by a deep intellectual rigor. Dr. Hawkins has taught us to analyze the world and examine our own hearts, always pointing us to Jesus,” Wheaton College 2014 graduate Clara Kent said. “When Dr. Hawkins chose to show her support of our Muslim neighbors by wearing a hijab, she saw this as another instance of how she follows Jesus’ call to love everyone, especially those who are treated as undesirable or insignificant.”

Kent said she was surprised and dismayed at the college’s decision, which she called “unjust.”

The Chicago chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations is also calling for Hawkins’ reinstatement.

“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. “Rather than applaud Hawkins for being a positive public representation of Christianity and its root concept of compassion, she is instead accused of undermining Christian beliefs. That to me is unfathomable.”

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