Kane to Lead Search for First Muslim Chaplain

January 31, 2017
In a letter last weekend to the Harvard community supporting international students and faculty, President Drew Faust unveiled a plan to appoint the first full-time University-wide Muslim chaplain. Under the plan, which was the result of months of discussion, the search for a chaplain will be led by a committee of students, faculty, and staff chaired by Harvard Divinity School Professor Ousmane Kane.

“I think it’s really very important and timely, particularly since the Muslim community and the students feel a great sense of marginalization or persecution with what is happening” nationally, said Kane, Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Professor of Contemporary Islamic Religion and Society.

Kane said the committee would seek someone who can support members of the Muslim community at Harvard and also enlighten the wider community about the Islamic faith. “To have that person as a staff member of the University shows its commitment to enlightening people about Islam,” said Kane, adding, “The fact that the president is establishing this position is a very strong statement.”

Halah Ahmad, a Harvard senior and former president of the Harvard Islamic Society, said creating the new position was a welcome step.

“We have felt for a long time that there is just a spiritual vacuum and lack of institutional support for Muslims at Harvard,” said Ahmad, adding that the new chaplain will help make the case “not just for the Muslim community but for the value of religious life on campus more broadly.”

HDS’s Jonathan Walton, Plummer Professor of Christian Morals and Pusey Minister in the Memorial Church, a strong supporter of the new chaplaincy, said Muslim students at Harvard “bear a heavy burden of religious intolerance and ignorance. A full-time Muslim chaplain can serve as a steady and comforting presence, helping students to navigate the challenges of our current political climate at this formative juncture in their lives.”

—by Colleen Walsh, Harvard Staff Writer (Excerpted from the Harvard Gazette)