Larycia Hawkins
Larycia Hawkins wore a headscarf in solidarity with Muslims

An academic at a Christian college in Chicago has been suspended after wearing a headscarf in solidarity with Muslims.

Larycia Hawkins, associate professor of political science at Wheaton College was placed on administrative leave on December 15. In a series of statements she stressed the close relationship between Islam and Christianity and wore a headscarf in response to increasing anti-Muslim attitudes in the US.

In a Facebook posting, Hawkins called for other women to wear the headscarf in solidarity with Muslims. "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," she wrote.

In the wake of the California terror attacks in which 14 people were killed, there has been a surge in Islamophobic hate crimes. On December 7 Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump appeared to enflame the situation after calling for all Muslims to be barred from the US.

In response to Hawkins gesture, the evangelical Wheaton College said that the public statements of faculty members had "generated confusion about complex theological matters" which did not reflect the institution's Christian identity.

Subsequently it announced Hawkins had been suspended.

"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," it said.

In response students protested outside the college calling for Hawkins reinstatement.