Source: USA Today
Wire Service: AP
A group of American Muslims, led by two prominent scholars, is moving closer to fulfilling a vision of founding the first four-year accredited Islamic college in the United States, what some are calling a "Muslim Georgetown."
Advisers to the project have scheduled a June vote to decide whether the proposed Zaytuna College can open in the fall of next year, a major step toward developing the faith in America.
Imam Zaid Shakir and Sheik Hamza Yusuf of California have spent years planning the school, which will offer a liberal arts education and training in Islamic scholarship. Shakir, a California native, sees the school in the tradition of other religious groups that formed universities to educate leaders and carve a space in the mainstream of American life.
"As a faith community our needs aren't any different than the needs of any other faith community," Shakir told the Council for the Advancement of Muslim Professionals, as he sought donations at a recent conference near Princeton, N.J. "As Muslims, we need to develop institutions to allow us to perpetuate our values."
Others have tried to start Muslim colleges around New York and Chicago, but those schools remained obscure or quickly folded.
Shakir and Yusuf are believed to have a better chance than most to succeed.
Shakir, an Air Force veteran, and Yusuf, a native of Washington state, are converts who spent years studying with Islamic scholars in North Africa and the Mideast. They speak flawless Arabic and have become widely respected teachers. Yusuf draws thousands of people to his talks and tens of thousands of viewers to his online lectures.