California school aims to be country’s first accredited Muslim college
As controversy swirls around a proposed Islamic center near New York City’s ground zero and a handful of other mosque projects around the country, students will arrive this week at a California school that is aiming to become the country’s first accredited Muslim college.
Zaytuna College hopes to the train a generation of Islamic clerics and professionals in a Western Islamic tradition that school officials say is ill understood by many of the foreign-born imams currently working in the United States.
“There’s a triumphalist view that’s not conducive to the type of religion we need to see,” said Hamza Yusuf, chairman of Zaytuna’s trustees board, describing many foreign-born imams. “American Muslims can help change a lot of the Muslim world to create the potential for conviviality.”
The school, located in Berkeley, will offer just two degrees – Arabic, and a combined Islamic law and theology major – when it opens its doors Monday to the 15 students in its first freshmen class. The class includes eight women and seven men.
But its leaders say they plan to expand to around 150 students in the school’s first four years and that they want to eventually train young people for careers in U.S. law, journalism, academia, and other fields.
First year tuition is $11,000 plus room and board, according to the school.
The school has yet to generate much controversy, but Yusuf, a co-founder who is the public face of the school, said he expects such criticism will come.
“I think the American people that are criticizing the ground zero mosque… are also criticizing us,” he told CNN’s Don Lemon on Sunday. “It’s par for the course right now. Islam is an acceptable target. To be prejudicial towards Islam is politically correct.”
But experts on American Islam say that the strain of modernist, mystical Islam espoused by Yusuf, which draws on Sufi traditions, might be more controversial among conservative Muslims.
Though Zaytuna has received little attention outside the Muslim world, many American Muslims have been watching the project closely.
“It is hugely significant,” said Eboo Patel, a prominent Muslim activist who focuses on youth organizing. “Part of what America is about is that people from diverse background build on traditions that are inspired by their heritage but that serve the common good, in the same way that Catholic universities or Jewish hospitals do.”
“The big story right now is the integration of Muslims into America,” he said, “and the establishment of Zaytuna is an important milestone in that arc.”
Eboo (one of Obama’s Islamic con men), Sharia is not about Muslims integrating. In fact is is quite the opposite.