Chicago : Dozens of students at Illinois evangelical school Wheaton College held a sit-in on Wednesday and asked its administration to reinstate and apologise to a political science professor who was suspended for saying Muslims and Christians worship the same God.
Student body President Josh Fort and other student leaders were meeting with college President Philip Ryken on Wednesday afternoon to deliver a letter regarding the suspension of Dr. Larycia Hawkins, the editor of the Wheaton Record student newspaper, Kirkland An, told Reuters.
Hawkins wrote on her Facebook page on Dec. 10 that she was donning the hijab head scarf during the period of advent before Christmas as a sign of solidarity with Muslims. In her post she said “we worship the same God.”
After that statement drew criticism, the school said Hawkins was placed on administrative leave.
“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 college said in a statement issued on Tuesday.
Hawkins did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.
Students have final exams this week and An said reaction has been divided over the suspension of Hawkins. “It’s all over the spectrum,” he said.
The college has said faculty and staff must faithfully represent the school’s evangelical statement of faith.
The students who called for Hawkins’ reinstatement said in their open letter: “We believe there is nothing in Dr. Hawkins’ public statement that goes against the belief in the power and nature of God, Christ, or the Holy Spirit that the Statement of Faith deems as a necessary requirement for affiliation with Wheaton College.”
Hawkins posted that she would wear the hijab in solidarity with Muslims. The professor, who has written on race, religion and American politics, said she had consulted with a local Islamic advocacy group to make sure that it would not be seen as offensive for a non-Muslim woman to wear the head scarf.
The solidarity gesture comes as Muslims around the United States report worries of growing Islamophobia after a couple who had pledged allegiance to the extremist group Islamic State killed 14 people in California in early December.