CHICAGO - A professor at a suburban Chicago Christian college who is wearing a headscarf to demonstrate solidarity with Muslims has been placed on administrative leave after making statements about the faiths' similarities that the college said conflicted with its "distinctively evangelical" identity.
Larycia Hawkins, who is a Christian and an associate professor of political science at Wheaton College, a private evangelical school west of Chicago, was put on leave Tuesday. In recent days, she began wearing a hijab, the headscarf worn by some Muslim women, to counter what she called the "vitriolic" rhetoric against Muslims in recent weeks.
Wheaton College students, who last week raised concerns of their own about comments that Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. made in the aftermath of the California shooting, took to social media to defend Hawkins and call for her to be reinstated.
Hawkins, a tenured faculty member, explained her decision to wear a headscarf throughout the Advent period preceding Christmas in a video interview with the Chicago Tribune on Sunday.
"This project began out of a sense of wanting to model for my students what actual solidarity looks like as opposed to theoretical," she said.
With fears of terrorism simmering and Donald Trump calling for Muslims to be blocked from entering the United States, many American Muslims are on edge. Hawkins said that she felt it was important to "show solidarity with Muslims in the United States at this very contentious time where rhetoric is vitriolic."
The college said that it placed her on leave because of statements she made on social media about similarities between Islam and Christianity.