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A Christian College Placed A Professor On Leave For Wearing A Hijab

"I stand in human solidarity with my Muslim neighbor because we are formed of the same primordial clay."

An evangelical Christian school in Illinois placed a professor on administrative leave Tuesday for wearing a hijab as a show of solidarity with Muslims.

Dr. Larycia Hawkins, an associate professor of political science at Wheaton College, last week posted photos on social media of herself wearing a hijab to school, using the hashtag #embodiedsolidarity. "I stand in human solidarity with my Muslim neighbor because we are formed of the same primordial clay," she wrote. "A large scale movement of Women in Solidarity with Hijabs is my Christmas ‪#‎wish‬ this year."

Hawkins reasserted her stance early Wednesday morning after her leave went into effect, signing a Facebook post, "Your sister in solidarity with the hijab." Many commented on the post expressing their support.

The school could not immediately be reached for comment, but it released a statement Tuesday explaining its decision:

Wheaton College faculty and staff make a commitment to accept and model our institution's faith foundations with integrity, compassion and theological clarity. 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.

In a subsequent statement, Wheaton College President Dr. Philip Ryken said, "The 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."

Hawkins' desire to wear the hijab was rooted in her discomfort with the uptick in anti-Muslim sentiment across the U.S., she said. 

"In a time of real vitriolic rhetoric, by fellow Christians sometimes, and people who aren't Christian who conflate all Muslims with terrorists -- and that saddens me -- this is a way of saying if all women wear the hijab we cannot discriminate," she told The Chicago Tribune. 

Last week, Wheaton College students wrote an open letter to evangelical leaders, calling them to "stand in solidarity with our Muslim brothers and sisters."

The school responded by saying, "While Islam and Christianity are both monotheistic, we believe there are fundamental differences between the two faiths."

On Wednesday, some Wheaton College students protested and delivered a letter to Ryken's office encouraging the administration reinstate Hawkins and formally apologize to her. They also created a Change.org petition, which uses the hashtag #ReinstateDocHawk.

"Dr. Hawkins is an essential part of the community here," one student told the Tribune. "She's a refuge for so many students on campus."

CORRECTION: Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this article stated that Wheaton College students wrote an open letter in response to anti-Muslim comments made by their school's chancellor, but the comments in question were actually made by Liberty University Chancellor Jerry Falwell Jr.

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