Zaytuna College

When presidents of religious colleges gather, do they share any strategies for coming battles?

When presidents of religious colleges gather, do they share any strategies for coming battles?

I’ve covered enough stories about the cultural battles endured by Christian colleges to wonder why they don’t team up with similar schools from other faith traditions to get more support. This week I saw a story from Religion News Service about a meeting that did just that.

Imagine presidents of several evangelical Protestant, Mormon, Muslim, Jewish and Catholic schools together on a panel. What was interesting was not so much what they did discuss but what they didn’t.

Let’s see: What’s the most newsworthy topic that you can think of right now in the world of Christian education?

It would have to be the doctrinal and lifestyle covenants that many faith-defined schools require people to sign — students, staff, faculty, etc. — when joining these voluntary, private institutions. This is often referred to as “freedom of association,” for this who follow First Amendment debates.

In terms of news, I’ve written before about how the California state legislature went after 42 faith-based institutions not long ago in an unsuccessful effort to forbid these colleges requiring statements of faith in order to attend. Keep that thought in mind.

WASHINGTON (RNS) — Like most college presidents, Ari Berman and Hamza Yusuf care about giving their students the best education possible in the classroom.

They also want to support their students’ rights as people of faith.

Faith-based schools help students “to contextualize our lives in a greater mission, to have a sense of holiness about everything that we do,” Berman, president of Yeshiva University in New York, told a gathering of Christian college presidents in the nation’s capital last week (Feb. 1)…

Berman and Yusuf, president of Zaytuna College in California, took part in an interfaith panel focused on what faith-based schools from diverse backgrounds have in common. The panel, which also included presidents of Mormon, Catholic and Protestant schools, took place at the end of the Presidents Conference of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, an evangelical consortium of more than 180 schools.

The most interesting comments in the piece came from Yusuf.

(Berman and Yusuf) defended their institutions as alternatives for students of faith who may be met with hostility from college professors at secular schools who consider their religion to be superstition or fellow students who don’t understand their beliefs.

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Mainstream news media and those missing Muslim voices denouncing terrorism

Mainstream news media and those missing Muslim voices denouncing terrorism

How often have you heard talk radio and TV personalities lament that Muslims don’t denounce terrorism?

The general public also worries about that, and a major reason is that the mainstream media regularly ignore such denunciations when they occur.

Consider the June 12 Orlando attack. North American Muslims scrambled and got out a response of condolence and outrage the very next day, with more than 450 endorsers. The Guy found coverage only from a veteran Godbeat specialist, CNN religion editor Daniel Burke.  

This significant statement, “On the Carnage in Orlando,” hedged matters by noting the assumption of radical Muslim inspiration was based on news reports. But if that’s the case, the signers declared, that “would be a reprehensible distortion of Islam” that made this great world faith one of the victims of the attack.

“Any such acts of violence violate every one of our Prophet’s teachings,” they asserted. “Such an act of hate-fueled violence has no place in any faith.” Also, the “foulness” of the attack was worsened by occurring during Ramadan, Islam’s month of charity and spiritual purification.

There was also a plea to non-Muslims not to “place collective guilt on an entire community for the sins of individuals,” which would be “an egregious offense against the culture and laws of America.”

Did you hear about this? Did you see press coverage?

Organized Islam lacks the money, staffing and savvy to mount much-needed public relations campaigns. So assignment editors should keep this document on file because it names 450 moderates who can be phoned for comment after the next atrocity. The list features leaders from most major national Muslim organizations and local groups across North America.

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Religion & Ethics Newsweekly punts on Zaytuna College coverage

Religion & Ethics Newsweekly punts on Zaytuna College coverage

I’ve been following Religion & Ethics Newsweekly since its inception nearly 20 years ago as only TV news magazine totally devoted to religion. Over that time period, this show has won a ton of awards and the members of the team have done yeoman reporting on far scantier budgets than what any of the Big 3 networks operate on. Their broadcasts are carried on PBS stations.

Thus, I was interested in a recent piece they had on Zaytuna College, the only Islamic liberal arts institution in the United States.

You see, about 12 years ago, I was assigned a series by the Washington Times on the phenomena of fast-growing conservative religious institutions in academia and I scouted around for a Muslim example. But in 2003, there was nothing out there. Today there is.

However, the piece in R&E seemed short on any critical perspective. Instead, it felt like some very timely PR in the light of recent Muslim-inspired terrorism only a few hundred miles from the campus. Here’s the beginning of the transcript of the 8 ½ -minute segment:

LUCKY SEVERSON, correspondent: This is Zaytuna College, located on what is called Holy Hill in Berkeley, California. It’s unique because Zaytuna is the very first accredited Muslim liberal arts college in the United States, and one of the few in the world. Zaytuna was cofounded 5 years ago by internationally acclaimed Islamic scholar Sheikh Hamza Yusuf.

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