Colleges Struggle to Find Trained Muslim Chaplains

February 16, 2002

Source: The New York Times

On February 16, 2002, The New York Times reported that "for colleges and universities, finding Muslim chaplains is often difficult... Yahya Hendi, an imam, became the first full-time Muslim college chaplain in the United States when Georgetown University in Washington hired him three years ago... By Mr. Hendi's count, 27 colleges have Muslim chaplains, most of whom serve part time or as volunteers and, like Ms. Sheikh, started with little religious training. Because colleges and universities are scrambling to meet the needs of growing numbers of Muslim students, 'they are just hiring anyone,' Mr. Hendi said... A few months ago Mr. Hendi, 35, was part of a group that convened to form the National Muslim Chaplains in Higher Education Council, which is seeking to ensure that chaplains at colleges and universities are adequately trained... Jane I. Smith is a professor in a program begun last September at the Hartford Seminary in Connecticut to train Muslim chaplains, primarily for institutions like schools, hospitals, prisons and the military. Professor Smith said her seminary faced a twofold challenge: to train Muslims who can teach their faith in what she calls 'the American context' and to bring more women into leadership roles in a religion where women are as yet unable to lead a mosque as an imam... Professor Smith... said that as the number of Muslims increased in the United States, 'there is a need for training indigenous leaders who know the American context.' But where those people will come from is 'up for grabs,' she said. 'This is a new and very interesting part of religious history in America.'"