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What meaning does the Hijab have?

A hearing date to terminate the employment of a professor at Wheaton College in Illinois has been scheduled for January 23.  Professor Larycia Hawkins, a tenured professor at the Christian college has asked for prayers, love and support.”  What is the story though?

It started with the Hijab.  In December of last year, using the Christian Advent devotional season to counter bigotry against Muslims, Professor Hawkins decided to don the Hijab.

“Jesus taught us to stand in solidarity with those being oppressed and persecuted.  This is something I can do for Muslim sisters who are in danger every day.”

Had she left it at that, nothing more would have been said about it.  Not even by the college, which has “no issues with Hawkins wearing a Hijab as a sign of solidarity.”  What the college had a problem with was the subsequent message the professor posted on her Facebook page in which she said that Muslims and Christians “worship the same God.”  The professor was questioned about her posting and placed on leave while an investigation was conducted.  And what the college is investigating is the fact that the professor’s “theological statements … seemed inconsistent with Wheaton College’s doctrinal convictions.”

The college’s statement further went on to say: “Wheaton College rejects religious prejudice and unequivocally condemns acts of aggression and intimidation against anyone. Our Community Covenant upholds our obligations as Christ-followers to treat and speak about our neighbours with love and respect, as Jesus commanded us to do. But our compassion must be infused with theological clarity.”

Even though Pope Francis reaffirmed again recently that Muslims, Jews and Christians share the same God – the God of Abraham, this issue of the same God is not always as clear cut as Professor Hawkins and indeed some Liberals in the West would like to make it out to be.

This is a statement, and indeed a question which Christians in the Middle-East have had to wrestle with for centuries, and they still haven’t found answers.  In fact, many Christians in the region prefer to tread on the terrain of political correctness.  The Cairo-based evangelical pastor Refaat Fekry simply says, “I cannot say we are united in our understanding.  Talking about God will only divide us further.”

Wheaton College has declined to make any further comment on the matter.  Since the news broke, students have been holding protests, demanding that the college reinstate the political science professor.  However, knowing how Wheaton College has never allowed itself to be swayed, a wait-and-see approach is the recommended option.

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