Hawkins was the only black female tenured professor at Wheaton, one of the nation’s most prominent evangelical universities. But in December, she angered officials at the Christian school with a Facebook post.
She snapped a picture of herself wearing a hijab and said she would wear it to support Muslim women throughout the Advent period. “I stand in religious solidarity with Muslims because they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book,” Hawkins wrote on Facebook. “And as Pope Francis stated last week, we worship the same God.”
To her great surprise, the college administration placed her on administrative leave and started the process to fire her. The college said in a statement that it had theological differences with Hawkins: “While Islam and Christianity are both monotheistic, we believe there are fundamental differences between the two faiths, including what they teach about God’s revelation to humanity, the nature of God, the path to salvation, and the life of prayer,”
Students protested, alumni wrote letters, and faculty members voiced their support for Hawkins.
Eventually, the college said that it would not fire Hawkins, but that they had mutually agreed that she would leave.
And now she has landed a job in Charlottesville.
U-Va. announced that Hawkins will research relations between races and religions in her fellowship at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture, which will last up to three years. She was previously a fellow at a different U-Va. research center, a decade ago.
Her new position is named after Emir Abd el-Kader, a Muslim warrior and scholar who confronted French occupiers in his homeland in western Algeria in the 19th century. The institute’s website describes him: “A man of civility, compassion, zest for learning, self-restraint and moral leadership, he won the admiration of the world including President Abraham Lincoln, Queen Victoria, Pope Pius IX, and Emir Shamil. The animating themes and concerns of Abd el-Kader’s life remain very much our own over a century later. He confronted the challenges of a foreign occupation, imprisonment, and exile with stoic resilience, diplomacy, learning, and a clear moral compass that won him fame from Missouri to Moscow to Mecca. Secure in his own identity, he was a unifier not a divider.”