The proposed Zaytuna College would be a first: a four-year, accredited, Islamic college in the United States.
“Part of the process of indigenizing Islam in America is for the community to begin to develop its own leadership from inside the country, develop its own scholars,” said Hatem Bazian, chair of the management board for Zaytuna College and a senior lecturer of Near Eastern studies at the University of California at Berkeley.
“There is a growing need in the Muslim community to provide a variety of trained specialists to fulfill a growing and diverse community infrastructure and institutional framework,” Bazian said — to work as imams, as chaplains, or within the growing network of Islamic non-profit organizations. Currently, Bazian said, American students who seek a high-level Islamic education must study in the Muslim world.
The proposed college would be built out of an existing institute with significant influence in the Islamic community. The Zaytuna Institute and Academy, an Islamic educational institute founded in 1996, is transitioning into Zaytuna College; the Berkeley-based institute already offers classes, but not for university credit.
Those behind the transition from institute to college plan to seek accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges – a daunting and multi-year process, they realize. “We know what is required. We know how difficult it is in terms of maintaining solvency and making sure that the management structure is strong. Those are things that WASC is looking for – making sure that the caliber of the education is at the level it should be, making sure that the organization is solvent and will continue to be around years from now,” said Farid Senzai, a member of Zaytuna’s management board, director of research at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding and an assistant professor of political science at Santa Clara University.