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The International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT) hosted two consecutive
panels at the annual Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) convention on
May 24, 2015.
Ermin Sinanović (director, Research and Academic Programs) opened
panel 1, “Imam & Community Education,” by explaining that IIIT is committed
to continuous professional development for imams and community leaders
so that they can be effective in the United States. As opposed to the societies
from which they come, here they are expected to perform many non-traditional
roles, such as Islamic instruction, interfaith participation, counseling, dealing
with a pluralistic community, and catering to the community’s needs. All of
these expectations and the difficulties that imams face in trying to fulfill them,
he remarked, “explains the high turnover we have at mosques.”
Several years ago, IIIT and Hartford Seminary designed a joint Graduate
Certificate in Imam and Muslim Community Leadership program to train
imams in the necessary skills. To “bring the Muslim component to the conversation
and instill self-respect and confidence in their students,” IIIT helped
Hartford Seminary hire Muslim instructors. Each applicant for this 24-hour
credit eight-course program must already possess a BA. The certification provides
practical training for counseling in hospitals, prisons, and other settings.
Zahid Bukhari (former president, ICNA) acknowledged the huge variation
among imams, especially those “imported imams” who have sound
knowledge of Islam but cannot relate to American culture and youth and thus
end up essentially leading disconnected lives “in an icloud type atmosphere.”
He recommended periodic recertification of imams and community leaders
so that they can improve their ability to handle contemporary challenges, and
expressed enthusiasm for the ICNA-IIIT partnership.
Timur Yuskaev (director, Graduate Certificate Program in Imam and Muslim
Community Leadership, Hartford Seminary) commented that many ...