A Wheaton College professor has been suspended, allegedly as a result of her pro-Muslim attitudes, which clashed with those prevalent at her school.
Larycia Hawkins used to work as an associate professor, teaching political science at Wheaton College, a private liberal arts college from Wheaton, Illinois.
The institution, whose motto is “For Christ and His Kingdom”, is renowned for its Evangelical Protestant leanings, coupled with its high academic standards.
Forbes has included Wheaton College among the best colleges and universities in the United States, and the school was also ranked by Times as the 20th most prolific liberal arts college, when it comes the number of graduates who earn doctoral degrees.
Now, it appears that the prestigious institution is in the midst of a controversy, given the fact that one of its professors has been placed on leave after spending the last few days with her hair covered in a purple hijab.
Adopting this veil is normally considered a modesty standard for Muslim females after the onset of puberty, while in the presence of men.
Hawkins decided to opt for the headscarf as a show of solidarity for Muslim people, following a growing wave of Islamophobia after the Paris terrorist attacks and the San Bernardino mass shooting committed by two ISIS supporters.
Aside from being dressed in traditional Islamic attire, the professor also issued some controversial affirmations on Facebook, paralleling the idea expressed by Pope Francis, that Muslims and Christians actually believe in the same God, but each religion gives Him its own interpretation.
It was these allegations, shared on December 10, that were met with intense criticism by the Evangelical school’s representatives. On Tuesday, December 16, it was announced that Hawkins would be suspended throughout the spring semester, as a result of the thoughts she had expressed about the Christian faith and Islam.
As the press release emphasized, Wheaton College is known for its steadfast religious beliefs, and all of its faculty members and other employees should reflect those views, when making public statements.
In response, the following day, Hawkins has declared that her attitude isn’t in fact un-Christian in any way, and doesn’t jar with the school’s stance.
In fact, especially now, during Advent, when Christians are preparing for the Christmas celebrations marking Jesus’s birth, it felt essential to practice what the Bible teaches, which is all-encompassing tolerance and love towards one’s neighbor.
According to the tenured professor, just because that neighbor may have different religious beliefs from one’s own, it doesn’t mean that the Bible’s doctrine should be altered so as to fit just a select group of people, while showing prejudice towards the rest.
Following these recent comments, an online petition at Change.org managed to raise around 1,200 signatures from students, alumni and other sympathizers who have demanded that Wheaton College should allow the teacher to resume her job duties.
Moreover, several dozens of pupils have been organizing sit-in protests, occupying the administration building instead of showing up for their final exams, so as to convince college officials to re-instate their teacher.
Hawkins also benefits from support offered by prominent clergy members and by First Amendment advocates, although experts such as Samantha Harris, director of policy research at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) admit that there is little that the professor can do now so as to contest the school’s decision.
As she explained, given the fact that Wheaton College is a private institution, it has the right to choose staff whose beliefs mirror its own, and can indiscriminately fire those who don’t fit the mold.
It remains to be seen if school president Philip Ryken and Provost Stanton L.Jones will remain unswayed by public opinion, and persist in their decision to remove Hawkins from her teaching position.
Image Source: Christianity Today