December 17, 2015
Wheaton College Professor Suspended Over Hijab

A Wheaton College professor was suspended for wearing a hijab to class. Dr. Larycia Hawkins, the suspended Illinois tenured professor, said she wore the headscarf in an effort to show Muslim solidarity. The private college has a evangelical Christian background and tradition.

Larycia Hawkins described herself as a Christian in a Facebook post shared after Wheaton College placed her on administrative leave. She is a political science professor at the Chicago area school. The 43-year-old professor had planned to wear the hijab not just on campus, but everywhere she went until Christmas, the Chicago Tribune reports.

"We all worship the same God," Dr. Larycia Hawkins said in a social media post discussing her decision to wear a hijab as an act of solidarity with Muslims.

During an interview with the local newspaper, Hawkins said that as part of her solidarity with Muslims campaign, she was going to wear the hijab when flying home to Oklahoma. Five years ago, the Wheaton College professor's native state passed an amendment to ban Sharia Law.

When detailing the motivation that prompted her to begin wearing the hijab, Hawkins said that we are now in a time of "real vitriolic rhetoric by fellow Christians sometimes and people who aren't Christian who conflate all Muslims with terrorist — and that saddens me — so this is a way of saying if all women wear the hijab we cannot discriminate."

The professor reportedly discussed her decision to wear a hijab before she donned the headscarf with the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) to make sure the act would not offend Muslims. Chicago CAIR Chapter Communications Director Renner Larson said that Hawkins' plans intrigued him. Larson also said that when Muslim women wear the hijab, there is frequently a misconception that the garment decision is forced upon them.

"For a lot of people it's a very powerful choice, especially in the United States it can be a hard, uncomfortable choice," Larson added. "So often women wearing hijab are the targets of attack and hatred because more than anyone else they are so immediately recognizable as Muslim. 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."

Although Hawkins consulted with CAIR to ensure that she was not going to cause offense by wearing a hijab around town and to work, she did not discuss the matter with administrators at the college. It is not currently clear how long the professor will be suspended or if the administrative leave is paid or unpaid, the New York Daily News reports.

A Wheaton College public statement appears to echo the concerns uttered by some evangelical Christians who felt Hawkins' statement blurred the lines between Christianity and Islam.

An excerpt from the Wheaton College media release regarding the hijab suspension reads as follows.

"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."
While Wheaton College officials did not formally denounce the decision by Larycia Hawkins to wear the hijab, they did state that a conversation should have occurred before she appeared in class adorned in the Islamic headscarf.

"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 from the Chicago area school said.

When she attended Sunday morning worship services at St. Martin Episcopal Church, Hawkins said she was heralded for her hijab act of solidarity with Muslims campaign. She told the media that being embraced by her church family was something that she had expected, but being suspended for wearing a hijab was not. The professor added that she never intended to offend other Christians.

What do you think about the Wheaton College professor wearing a hijab to class and being suspended for doing so?

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