By Fiona Ortiz
CHICAGO (Reuters) - A tenured political science professor at Wheaton College, an evangelical university outside Chicago, has been suspended after she wrote in a Facebook post that Muslims and Christians worship the same God.
Dr. Larycia Hawkins wrote on the social media site on Dec. 10 that she was donning the hijab head scarf during the period of advent before Christmas as a sign of solidarity with Muslims. In her post she said "we worship the same God."
After that statement drew criticism, the school said Hawkins was on administrative leave.
"In response to significant questions regarding the theological implications of statements that Associate Professor of Political Science Dr. Larycia Hawkins has made about the relationship of Christianity to Islam, Wheaton College has placed her on administrative leave, pending the full review to which she is entitled as a tenured faculty member," said the statement, issued on Tuesday.
Wheaton College spokeswoman LaTonya Taylor did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for information about how long the suspension would last, how unusual it was and who would conduct the review. Hawkins also did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
The college said that when they participate in causes, faculty and staff must faithfully represent the school's evangelical statement of faith.
On her Facebook page on Dec. 10, Hawkins said she would wear the hijab in solidarity with Muslim neighbors. "I stand in religious solidarity with Muslims because they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book."
Hawkins, who has written on race, religion and American politics, said she had consulted with the local chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations, an advocacy group, to make sure that it would not be seen as offensive for a non-Muslim woman to wear the headscarf.
The solidarity gesture comes as Muslims around the United States report worries of a backlash and growing Islamophobia after a couple who had pledged allegiance to the extremist group Islamic State killed 14 people in California in early December.
After she was criticized for saying Christians and Muslims worship the same God, Hawkins said on her Facebook page that there are convincing arguments for expressing religious solidarity with Muslims and Jews and asked people who do not agree with her to accept her love and her offering of peace.
(Reporting by Fiona Ortiz; Editing by Bernard Orr)