College prof wearing headscarf in solidarity with Muslims placed on leave

CHICAGO -- A professor at a suburban Chicago Christian college who has been placed on administrative leave after donning a headscarf to demonstrate solidarity with Muslims said Wednesday that her actions are demonstrations of her own faith.

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Larycia Hawkins, who is a Christian and an associate professor of political science at Wheaton College, a private evangelical school west of Chicago, was put on leave Tuesday. In recent days, she began wearing a hijab, the headscarf worn by some Muslim women, to counter what she called the "vitriolic" rhetoric against Muslims in recent weeks.

"In the spirit of Advent, my actions were motivated by a desire to live out my faith. Period," Hawkins said Wednesday at a news conference at a Chicago church. Advent is the season leading up to Christmas.

With fears of terrorism simmering and Donald Trump calling for Muslims to be blocked from entering the United States, many American Muslims are on edge. Hawkins said she felt it was important to show solidarity with Muslims in the country.

"Theoretical solidarity is not solidarity," the tenured faculty member said.

Supporters at the news conference included Wheaton students and Christian leaders who called for her reinstatement.

The college said in a statement Tuesday that it placed her on leave because of statements she made on social media about similarities between Islam and Christianity.

"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," the statement read.

A college spokeswoman did not return messages seeking more information about what precisely led to the decision.

In its written statement said the college had "no stated position" on the wearing of headscarves as a gesture of care and concern. But it also said that "overtures of Christian friendship must be enacted with theological clarity as well as compassion."

Hawkins also said "I affirm the creeds of the church," adding that she hopes for an amicable resolution with the college.


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