Disguised Islamophobia At US College

03 February 2016

By Tariq A. Al-Maeena

The phobia against Muslims stirred up by Donald Trump in his run for the US presidency has spilled over into other venues. Muslims are being marginalized because of their faith in scattered cases across America or singled out during rallies and booted out as was the case recently of a Muslim lady who had attended a Trump rally.

Earlier this month, Wheaton College, a Protestant Christian college in the state of Illinois, started termination procedures against an associate professor of political science Larycia Hawkins for very strange reasons. Hawkins who holds a PhD in Political Science from the University of Oklahoma had previously worked in state government administering federal programs, including the Social Security Disability Program and the Community Development Block Grant.

She was placed on administrative suspension in December when she decided to wear a headscarf during the Christmas season to show solidarity with Muslims during a difficult period when more and more stories of targeted violence against Muslims had begun to be reported. At the time, she posted a message on social media that Muslims and Christians ''worship the same God'' a fact that did not sit well with the college administration. ''I stand in religious solidarity with Muslims because they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book,'' Hawkins wrote on her Facebook account. ''And as Pope Francis stated last week, we worship the same God.''

Placing her on administrative leave, college officials said they needed time ''to determine whether her statement puts her at odds with the faith perspective that is required of those who are employed by the school.''

In a recent interview with Nation Public Radio (NPR), Hawkins expressed her surprise at the news that college officials would be getting together for a hearing later this month to decide on her termination. She told the interviewer: ''That felt really devastating to receive that news, given that I've committed nine years of my life to teaching in an institution that I really believe embodies the spirit of the liberal arts in a Christian context.''

Hawkins also maintained that what she posted on Facebook was ''not actually a theological treatise but rather a statement that I stand in solidarity with women wearing the hijab, as I think Jesus would, as he came to embody what it means to love thy neighbor and love God and love yourself.''

Wheaton College, on the other hand, perhaps wary of an impending lawsuit, contends that their decision has nothing to do with Hawkins' decision to wear the headscarf. The school insists that the termination process was generated as a result of ''theological disagreement''.

In a December 16 statement, Wheaton College claimed: ''The freedom to wear a headscarf as a gesture of care and compassion for individuals in Muslim or other religious communities that may face discrimination or persecution is afforded to Dr. Hawkins as a faculty member of Wheaton College. Yet her recently expressed views, including that Muslims and Christians worship the same God, appear to be in conflict with the College's Statement of Faith.''

Hawkins dismisses such allegations by the college. ''The post was not about theology,'' she told the NPR interviewer. ''It was about solidarity, which is a Christian principle. I've spent most of my adult career committed to being a professor, a scholar and doing so in a Christian context. I'm not the ‘hijab professor'. I'm the professor that's trying to teach my students to move beyond theoretical solidarity, sitting on our laurels in the classroom, toward embodied politics, embodied solidarity. That's for all of us.''

For various reasons, strangers to Islam have come to believe that Muslims worship a different God than Christians and Jews. This is totally untrue, since ''Allah'' is simply the Arabic word for ''God'' – and there is only one God. Muslims worship the God of Noah, Abraham, Moses, David and Jesus – peace be upon them all. However, it is certainly true that Jews, Christians and Muslims all have different concepts of Almighty God. For example, Muslims – like Jews – reject the Christian beliefs of the Trinity and the Divine Incarnation. This, however, does not mean that each of these three religions worships a different God – because there is only one God.

This wave of disguised Islamophobia is indeed very ominous especially as it comes from an educational institution. Wheaton College officials should take some lessons in Islam before falsely maligning one of their own tenured professors who had the courage to speak the truth as she saw it.

— The author can be reached at talmaeena@aol.com. Follow him on Twitter @talmaeena

©  EsinIslam.Com

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