Some of our professors in undergraduate and graduate school just leave a mark on our lives – molding the way we think and our opinions on various issues both politically and emotionally. Larycia Alaine Hawkins, a tenure political science professor at Wheaton College in Illinois, was one and the same.
“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,” wrote Hawkins on her Facebook wall. “I stand in religious solidarity with Muslims because they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book … But as I tell my students, theoretical solidarity is not solidarity at all. Thus, beginning tonight, my solidarity has become embodied solidarity.” Hawkins decided to put on a hijab.
The very next day, Hawkins was put on leave by her college not for her mission to donne the hijab during Advent, but for the supposedly problematic statement that Muslims and Christians believe in the same God. The suspension is said to last through the spring semester.
The President of the college, Philip Ryken, found it to be against the beliefs of their institution to make such a comparison between Muslims & Christians of believing in the same God and many evangilical Christians rose to criticize Hawkins’ dissent from the statement of faith all faculty have promised to live by. Although it can be acknowledged that there are key differences between the religions, Hawkins wished to bring unity at a time of division. She pointed to the importance of the Christian community standing firm and resolute in their defense of the Muslim community after the Paris attacks and shooting in San Bernadino, California. Instead of overly reading into her words, perhaps the college should have pointed to the numerous occasions in which their Muslim neighbors have stood up against their persecution throughout history.
Although actions taken by the board at Wheaton college are astonishing, there is something to be appreciated in this. The fact that the students at the college immediately rose in protest against the suspension of Hawkins from her position signifies the unity between all religions. At this time, there is not one leaf un-turned with regards to the opposition against Muslims. Somehow being associated with Islam is an evil in itself as it now has become synonymous with extremist jihadists. Despite being in a region of the States where Muslims are greatly discriminated against Hawkins, as a beloved teacher at the institution, has taught her students well. In the words of Matthew Adams, a junior student from Fort Lauderdale, Florida: “It gives me hopes that understanding will come from this.”
Doctor Hawkins has begun a movement. She did not only take to social media to empathize with her fellow Muslim brothers and sisters as many others, but acted upon this feeling. She has truly played her part in the force against intolerance and prejudice – and for that we applaud her.
As for Wheaton College; your students are still waiting on that apology.
Image: Hawkins Facebook Page