College suspends professor for showing solidarity with Muslims

It’s not this picture that has gotten Larycia Alaine Hawkins in trouble with her employer, Wheaton College in Illinois. The private liberal arts school insists it has no opinion on the hijab she’s wearing to show her solidarity with people of other faiths.

Rather, it’s these accompanying words that she wrote on Facebook that the evangelical Christian school has a problem with.

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.

I stand in human solidarity with my Muslim neighbor because we are formed of the same primordial clay, descendants of the same cradle of humankind–a cave in Sterkfontein, South Africa that I had the privilege to descend into to plumb the depths of our common humanity in 2014.

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.
Perhaps you are a Muslim who does not wear the veil normally. Perhaps you are an atheist or agnostic who finds religion silly or inexplicable. Perhaps you are a Catholic or Protestant Christian like me. Perhaps you already cover your head as part of your religious worship, but not a hijab.

***I would like to add that I have sought the advice and blessing of one of the preeminent Muslim organizations in the United States, the Council on American Islamic Relations, ‪#‎CAIR‬, where I have a friend and Board colleague on staff. I asked whether a non-Muslim wearing the hijab was haram (forbidden), patronizing, or otherwise offensive to Muslims. I was assured by my friends at CAIR-Chicago that they welcomed the gesture. So please do not fear joining this embodied narrative of actual as opposed to theoretical unity; human solidarity as opposed to mere nationalistic, sentimentality.

Document your own experiences of Women in Solidarity with Hijabs #wish.

Shalom friends.

Those are fightin’ words, apparently.

Citing “significant questions regarding the theological implications” of her remarks on the relationship between Islam and Christianity, the college has disciplined her, putting her on leave, the New York Times reports this afternoon.

The college president released a statement explaining the rationale:

In recent days, Wheaton College students distributed an “An Open Letter to Leaders in the Evangelical Community,” expressing their desire for Christians to treat and to speak about our Muslim neighbors in loving and respectful ways. Wheaton College has also received questions and media coverage related to statements some faculty members have made on social media regarding the relationship between Christianity and Islam.

Wheaton College is an institution of distinctively evangelical Christian identity. The core of our faith, as expressed in our Statement of Faith, is our belief that “the Lord Jesus Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures, as a representative and substitutionary sacrifice, triumphing over all evil; and that all who believe in Him are justified by His shed blood and forgiven of all their sins.” We affirm that salvation is through Christ alone.

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.

Our Community Covenant explores specific obligations of Christian morality, including affirming the call to love our neighbors as ourselves; to uphold the God-given worth of human beings, from conception to death, as the unique image-bearers of God; and to give faithful witness to the Gospel. The Scriptures, as well as the Community Covenant, hold us accountable to reject injustice, prejudice, and the taking of innocent life.

As a Christian liberal arts institution, we value a robust exchange of ideas on the critical issues of the day. Faculty and student expressions of concern about the treatment of Muslims have been grounded in a desire to live peaceably and respectfully with all people, including our neighbors of Islamic and other religious faith traditions. While these commitments are consistent with our Statement of Faith and Community Covenant, overtures of Christian friendship must be enacted with theological clarity as well as compassion.

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.

Some recent faculty statements have generated confusion about complex theological matters, and could be interpreted as failing to reflect the distinctively Christian theological identity of Wheaton College. We will be in dialogue with our faculty, staff and students in the days ahead to ensure that we articulate our love for our Muslim neighbors in ways that are consistent with our distinctive theological convictions.

According to the Times the college won’t comment on the length of the professor’s leave.