A Christian college suspended a tenured professor for daring to say that Muslims and Christians worship the same God.
Larycia Hawkins, who teaches political science at private Wheaton College in Illinois, was placed on administrative leave on Tuesday after she posted photos of herself in a purple headscarf on social media, writing “Professor & student in solidarity w/ hijab,” on wrote on Twitter. Hawkins elaborated, “as Pope Francis stated last week, [Christians and Muslims] worship the same God.”
“Wheaton College faculty and staff make a commitment to accept and model our institution's faith foundations with integrity, compassion and theological clarity,” Wheaton wrote in a statement announcing her suspension. “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 college’s statement did not clarify whether the issue was solely with the “theological implications” of Hawkins’s claim that Muslims and Christians worship the same God, or with the seeming authority she granted to the Pope. A spokeswoman for Wheaton did not return a request for comment.
In a Facebook post about her photographs, Hawkins linked her choice to wear the hijab to her own Christian worship this Advent.
“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,” she wrote.
Hawkins added that she’d asked friends at the Council on American-Islamic Relations whether non-Muslims wearing the hijab is “haram (forbidden), patronizing, or otherwise offensive to Muslims,” and got their blessing.
Earlier, Wheaton students had written a statement of solidarity with Muslims but avoided invoking theological justifications for their stance.
The Department of Education granted Wheaton College a religious exemption to non-discrimination laws in 1985. The waiver allows the school to mandate that faculty and staff adhere to the college’s religious doctrines, though it’s not clear that the school’s statement of faith explicitly says anything about the relationship between the God worshiped by Muslims and Christians.
Jesus is considered a prophet in Islam but is not granted the same divine status he has in Christianity. Christians and Jews are even given special status in the Quran as People of the Book. But Wheaton’s statement of faith explicitly identifies Jesus as God.
On her Facebook page, Hawkins also linked to a Huffington Post article by Yale Divinity School theologian Miroslav Volf supporting her thesis.
In a statement concerning Christian Engagement with Muslim Neighbors, posted Friday, Wheaton affirmed that it believes “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,” the college elaborated. It added that while the college welcomes goodwill toward Muslims, “overtures of Christian friendship must be enacted with theological clarity as well as compassion.”