Carstens: Words had more impact than action for Larycia Hawkins


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In Carsten’s opinion, “Hawkins meant well by wearing the hijab, but the comments she made were what led to her suspension, not her choice to wear the traditional Muslim garment.”

Courtney Carstens

Wheaton College in Illinois just recently suspended associate professor Larycia Hawkins for announcing that she was going to wear a hijab, a Muslim head covering, throughout Advent.

Hawkins planned on wearing this traditional head covering throughout the entire season of Advent, which is a Christian season, to show solidarity with Muslims. This action came after she said Dec. 10 through Facebook that “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.”

While many people believe that there is an anti-Muslim reason behind Hawkins’ suspension, the college explained that its reason behind her suspension was not because of her choice to wear the hijab, but because of her inaccurate comments toward the Muslim and Christian religions. Many people, including the institution and students in which she worked for berated her for stating that Muslims and Christians worship the same God.

What she did was a good thing; she tried to bring together people of two openly conflicting groups of religions, people who have been at odds for quite some time. However, Hawkins’ inaccurate comments that were made hurt all of the good she was trying to accomplish. 

While many people like to believe that actions are more powerful than words, that was not the case in this instance. Her actions were meant to symbolize something good and kind but they instead hurt the college she worked for with just one comment. People and the institution are now offended. It does not matter how many times she says she did not mean to offend anyone, the comment was written, and the damage is done.

The professor in question should have been more careful with her words because of the anti-Muslim agenda that seems to be popular with presidential candidates such as Donald Trump, who would like to, if he became president, require Muslims and Syrian refugees to register in the United States.

After being asked on multiple occasions about how or if we should do something about the Syrian and Muslim problems, the Republican candidate finally gave his answer. These candidates don’t seem to be the only people against Muslims. According to a recent study, 23 percent of Democrats agreed with Trump’s earlier comments, while 54 percent of Republicans agreed with him.

Hawkins should have been more aware of potential implications of what she wrote and how that could impact her career going forward. People should not be so quick to assume the worst of an institution, but look at the actions of both parties. The comment made by Hawkins was that Muslims and Christians worship the same God, which is inaccurate, and as a Christian college, Wheaton had every right to berate her because that comment goes against its belief. Although, I will admit that suspension seems a little too harsh, especially because this was a Facebook post, which brings up her right to free speech.

Wheaton’s mission clearly explains that it is a Christian-centered institution: “Wheaton College serves Jesus Christ and advances His Kingdom through excellence in liberal arts and graduate programs that educate the whole person to build the church and benefit society worldwide.”

The college must have felt that the Hawkins’ comments somehow went against this mission when the Wheaton provost said, We are being asked to defend why we have faculty openly rejecting with (sic) the institution stands for.”

Hawkins meant well by wearing the hijab, but the comments she made were what led to her suspension, not her choice to wear the traditional Muslim garment. While pictures can be worth a thousand words, one comment can ruin any good message that is trying to be conveyed. This appears to be the case with Hawkins and Wheaton College.