A Wheaton College professor has responded to critics who have questioned her devotion to her Christian faith after she announced last week that she will wear a hijab to show solidarity with Muslims during her celebration of the Advent.
Larycia Hawkins is an associate political science professor at the respected Illinois-based evangelical higher education institution Wheaton College, the alma mater of world-renowned evangelist Billy Graham. Hawkins posted on her Facebook page last Thursday that she will wear a Muslim headscarf throughout the Christmas season. During her interview with The Christian Post on Monday, Hawkins maintained that her post was miFsunderstood by many Christians.
In her post last Thursday, Hawkins made the assertion that Christians and Muslims "worship the same God," a statement that she says has provoked the most criticism.
"There is pushback on the idea that we worship the same god but taking that a step farther to assume that I am conflating Jesus and Muhammad, the prophet. That is where the pushback has come primarily," Hawkins told CP.
"I am not making any kind of equivalency between two religions and the prophet Muhammad and the prophet Jesus, that is not what I said but that, people have taken."
Hawkins posted a follow up Facebook post Sunday night, which included a link to a Huffington Post article that states that many Arab Christians have worshipped a God named Allah for centuries and adds that many Christians have long believed that "Muslims worship the same God that they do."
"Whether or not you find this position, one held for centuries by countless Christians (church fathers, saints, and regular Christian folk like), to be valid, I trust that we can peacefully disagree on theological points and affirm others like the Triune God (albeit there are differences here as well — Athanasian Creed, anyone?), the virgin birth (or Immaculate Conception depending on your persuasion), and the Resurrection," Hawkins wrote. "Let there be unity in our diversity of views about all of the above."
Hawkins admits that another contested part of her Facebook post from last Thursday was when she decried an attempt by her home state, Oklahoma, to ban Sharia law. Although her comment could have been construed as her saying that Sharia law should not be banned in the U.S., she explained the Constitution has supremacy of the land and Sharia law could never be passed.
"I was just pointing out that according to the Constitution, there can be no other laws — the Supremacy Clause. The Constitution is the law of the land, so there is no Sharia law that could be established in the United States by any state legislature," Hawkins told CP. "If there was a state legislature that tried to implement it, the Supremacy Clause will strike it down immediately. The idea was really to say that this was another form of Islamophobia to pass these preemptive anti-sharia laws."
Since her controversial Facebook post last Thursday, Hawkins said that at least ten other people, including students, friends and even a mother of one of her former students, have told her that they will be taking part in wearing hijabs this Christmas season. She is not certain if all of them plan on wearing the hijab throughout the entire Advent or just for a day or two.
Although Hawkins Facebook post has gained quite a bit of media attention, her goal behind her show of solidarity with Muslims, she said, is not to gain attention or conduct a social experiment.
"I think that is the kind of unity through religious diversity that I am trying to accomplish through this is to have unity with women who are easily targeted because they wear their religion on their head," Hawkins stressed. "I really find it imperative to think about what it means to coexist as religionists. There are Christian missionaries who uphold these models of the faith who are doing the same thing as a way of reaching out to Muslims even as they try to spread the gospel. I am not sure if we see this is a way of sharing the gospel or as an act of religious solidarity. I think people do it all the time, just not in the U.S."
"I think woman wearing a cross or a man wearing a cross isn't necessarily deemed Christian but a woman wearing a hijab is always assumed to be Muslim, even though Jesus' mom wore a hijab. Mary, the mother of God, wore a hijab," Hawkins highlighted. " The context in the time is fortuitous to remind ourself that in some context, this is a cultural element of dress. Some of my friends who are missionaries in the Middle East wear the hijab while they live there everyday."
Even though Hawkins' goal wasn't to conduct a social experiment, she couldn't help but notice last Friday, her first full day wearing the hijab throughout her daily routine, that she was getting more stares while out in public.
"I have been noticing how I am isolated because there are so few women in hijabs. As a black female, I often notice that I am the only one," Hawkins said. "In terms of people in responses and reaction to me, I have noticed being stared at, at the gas station while pumping gas. It's less obvious that people stare at me for the hijab. It is very difficult to know at any point in time why they look at you. At the gas station, that was pretty obvious that I was being stared at for a long time while pumping gas and wearing the hijab."
On Sunday, Hawkins attended an Episcopal church service while wearing the hijab for the first time.
"The church was very accepting of me. This is the church that I had been visiting regularly. There were no sense that I would be rejected. There were no outright questions. They just said, 'Hi, how are you today?' So, perhaps they thought maybe I was a Muslim visiting the church and just started wearing the hijab," she explained. "Then I got to explain. The pastor asked me what I was doing and why I was wearing the hijab. I thought that was a good opportunity to put some context around it."
For those who continue to call Hawkins faith into question for wearing a hijab during her advent worship, she has just three words for them: "I love you."
"The apostle Paul declares, '...as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone' (Romans 12:18). That includes those of you who now count me apostate for daring to call fellow humans who happen to be Muslim my brothers and sisters," Hawkins wrote on Sunday. "I love you with the power of the love that saved me and keeps me and bids me do justice in my body."