Wheaton College professor put on leave for saying Muslims, Christians have same god

A Wheaton College political science professor, who on social media endorsed a view that Christians and Muslims “worship the same god,” was put on administrative leave Tuesday by the evangelical Christian school.

Dr. Larycia Hawkins, who is Christian and a professor at the college since 2007, also posted photos of herself on Facebook and Twitter wearing a hijab to show solidarity with Muslim women in America and inviting other women to join her.

“I love my Muslim neighbor because s/he deserves love by virtue of her/his human dignity,” she wrote on Facebook Dec. 10. “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.”

In a statement released Tuesday night, the college said it has “significant questions regarding the theological implications” of what Hawkins said about the relationship of Christianity to Islam.

“As they participate in various causes, it is essential that faculty and staff engage and speak about public issues in ways that faithfully represent the college's evangelical Statement of Faith,” the statement said.

In a separate statement, President Philip Ryken said Wheaton College “has no stated position on the wearing of headscarves as a gesture of care and concern for those in Muslim or other religious communities that may face discrimination or persecution. We support the protection of all Americans including the right to the free exercise of religion, as guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States.”

Hawkins did not respond to repeated requests for an interview Tuesday.

In the days leading up to Hawkins being placed on leave, many of her friends and former students posted messages on her Facebook page in support of her wearing the hijab, and a few posed for photos wearing hijabs of their own.

But not everyone was happy, leading Hawkins to write follow-up posts saying pushback about her decision to wear a hijab during the holidays was “almost exclusively from other Christians” who took issue with the remark about Christians and Muslims worshipping the same God.

Hawkins asked for forgiveness and understanding from anyone she's offended, but she remains steadfast in her belief, signing her note, “Your sister in the hijab.”

“My wearing of the hijab as an act of advent devotion has certainly caused some to question the sincerity of my devotion. To those who question the authenticity of my faith, I love you,” she wrote.

After her initial posts, Wheaton College released a statement last week saying it valued “a robust exchange of ideas” and that faculty and student concern about the treatment of Muslims is grounded in a desire to live peaceably and respectfully with all people.

“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 said in its statement last week. “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.”

Hawkins' administrative leave will be pending a full review, which she is entitled to as a tenured faculty member.

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