A suburban Chicago professor has been put on administrative leave by her Evangelical Christian college after showing support for Muslims in America.
Dr. Larycia Hawkins, a political science professor at Wheaton College since 2007, had been wearing a hijab to show religious solidarity for Muslim women and posted photos of herself in the headscarf with a message on her Facebook page Thursday.
“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 said in the post.
“I don't love my Muslim neighbor because s/he is American. I love my Muslim neighbor because s/he deserves love by virtue of her/his human dignity...” Hawkins said. “I invite all women into the narrative that is embodied, hijab-wearing solidarity with our Muslim sisters–for whatever reason.”
The post quickly gained attention, with dozens of women sending messages of support and responding with pictures of themselves also wearing hijabs.
A day later, students at the college began circulating "An Open Letter to Leaders in the Evangelical Community" published Friday by campus leaders that promoted Christians to treat and to speak about Muslims in loving and respectful ways, in an effort to put an end to the “ever-growing fear and hostility directed toward Muslims” in the wake of recent terror attacks.
By the time students returned to classes the following week, Hawkins was placed on administrative leave by the university.
In a Tuesday evening statement on Wheaton College’s website, a spokesperson explained the move, writing that it was what Hawkins said – not what she wore – that led to her suspension:
“In response to significant questions regarding the theological implications of statements that Associate Professor of Political Science Dr. Larycia Hawkins has made about the relationship of Christianity to Islam, Wheaton College has placed her on administrative leave, pending the full review to which she is entitled as a tenured faculty member.
Wheaton College faculty and staff make a commitment to accept and model our institution's faith foundations with integrity, compassion and theological clarity. 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.”
College President Dr. Philip Ryken later said "the college has no stated position on the wearing of headscarves as a gesture of care and concern for those in Muslim or other religious communities that may face discrimination or persecution."
"We support the protection of all Americans including the right to the free exercise of religion, as guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States," the statement read.
In response to her unexpected suspension, Hawkins wrote a message to her students and supporters on Facebook:
“Faith, hope, and love. These remain. But the greatest of these is love. Love abounds. And it is redounding to me in countless ways. I am honored and humbled to be loved. To be loved by you,” Hawkins wrote.
“Current and former students–how do I love thee? You already know the answer to that question. But in case you've forgotten, you, you, you inspire me every day, she wrote. “That, my dears, will never change.”
Hawkins' administrative leave will be pending a full review.