Earlier this week, Larycia Hawkins, a tenured Professor of Political Science at Wheaton College was placed on administrative leave following remarks she made about the “relationship of Christianity to Islam.” The specific remarks in question, “We worship the same God,” were shared on Dr. Hawkins private Facebook account in a post she wrote decrying the most recent anti-Muslim rhetoric and the responsibility of Christians in showing solidarity to other people of faith.
“I stand in religious solidarity with Muslims because they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book. And as Pope Francis stated last week, we worship the same God.”
We, the undersigned, write this letter to express our deep love, appreciation and gratitude for Dr. Hawkins courage and beautiful demonstration of ‘embodied solidarity.’ As Black Muslim women, we are experientially aware of the intersectional impacts of racism, religious discrimination, and gendered forms of oppression; thus the significance of the bold, principled stance taken by our sister, whereby she willingly exposed herself to personal and professional risks shaped by those very same forces, is not lost on us.
As Audre Lorde taught us, “When I use my strength in the service of my vision, it makes no difference whether or not I am afraid.” Dr. Hawkins’ actions are the epitome of strength; they are a reflection of a deep understanding and firm footing in her faith tradition, a true commitment to equality, diversity, and human rights. Her actions are rooted in the long tradition of black women’s social justice activism on a range of issues–in the abolitionist and suffrage movements, in anti-lynching campaigns, in Civil Rights and Black Power circles, and in the current moment as activists in the ongoing fight against racialized police violence. Her show of practical solidarity in this difficult moment is also a powerful testament to her value as an educator, to the principles and practice of expanding one’s experience and broadening one’s horizons as indispensable to the educational process. In our view, the measures taken by Wheaton administrators in this moment run counter to these aims, placing a premium on the reinforcement of limited world-views and serving to dampen the spirit of free inquiry so crucial to the academic environment; ultimately depriving the student body of the benefit of a deeply dedicated educator.
Furthermore, as Muslim women, by virtue of our faith we uphold the basic veracity of Dr. Hawkins’ assertion. We heed the words of the Qur’an, our sacred scripture, in which we are reminded constantly to honor the bonds that connect us intimately with our Jewish and Christian family. In spite of any variations in belief and praxis present in our respective traditions, they are, to us, the People of the Book, believers in and maintainers of the monotheistic tradition in which we ourselves are theologically rooted. We recognize Professor Hawkins as a living manifestation of the following verse, found in the third chapter of the Qur’an (3:64): “O People of the Book! Come to common terms as between us and you, that we worship none but God, that we associate no partners with Him; that we erect not from ourselves lords and patrons other than Him.”
On the basis of the aforementioned we honor the courage of our beloved sister, call upon her employers to renew their own commitment to the principles of tolerance and academic freedom, and issue a reminder to us all to continue to stand strong in the ongoing fight against all forms of bigotry, prejudice, and institutionalized discrimination.
Kameelah Mu’Min Rashad, MS Muslim Chaplain, University of Pennsylvania
Margari Aziza Hill, Programming Director, MuslimARC
Donna Auston, Doctoral Candidate, Rutgers University
Dr. Imaani El-Burki, Lehigh University
Dr. Michelle Byng, Temple University
Dr. Amina Wadud
Raheemah Abdul-Aleem, Esq.
Dr. Nicole Monteiro, CHAD – Center for Healing and Development
Kamilah A. Pickett, JD, MPH
Khadijah Gurnah, MPH, Project Ejaba
Kalia Abiade, Center for New Community
Safiyya Shabazz, MD, FAAFP, Owner, Fountain Medical Associates
Mubarakah Ibrahim, FitMuslimah
Precious Rasheeda Muhammad
Dr. Hamidah Sharif-Harris, CEO, Thrive Well Company
Dr. Jamillah Karim
Dr. Su’ad Abdul Khabeer, Purdue University
Dr. Shareefah Al’Uqdah
Jamilah T. Bigelow