ANN ARBOR, Michigan - Filling in the missing role for Islamic guidance on campus, a Muslim chaplain has been named to help accommodate the religious needs of students at the University of Michigan.
The Muslim community is a growing entity on campus and requires a stable presence on campus, Eman Abdelhadi, president of the Muslim Student Association, told AnnArbor website.
We felt a chaplain would help meet the personal as well as communal needs of students.
Mohammed Tayssir Safi was appointed as a Muslim chaplain at the University of Michigan.
The move aims to help serve the religious needs of the Muslim students on campus.
Safi began his duties on January 3 in a part-time position supported by about $30,000 in funds raised by the Michigan Muslim Alumni Association.
Over the past three years, MU Muslim students at Michigan have been pressing for appointing a chaplain to help provide religious guidance to incoming students.
There's kind of like this void of Muslim leaders on campus that students can go to with questions, said U-M junior and Economic Justice major Misbah Ahmed.
Unlike students of other faiths, Muslim students had no chaplain.
Jewish students at the university participate in Hillel, a Jewish organization with a local staff, and Chabad House, the college ministry of a local synagogue.
Christian students get guidance from a dozen religious organizations, many of them manned by full-time staffers, and a handful of local churches outreach to the college, busing students from campus to Sunday services.
The chaplain's appointment won plaudits from the religious organization at university.
The role of religious professionals in general on campus is important and valuable, said Reid Hamilton, president of U-M's Association of Religious Counselors, which represents 35 different religious organizations on campus.
He added that religious counselors help maintain an institutional memory of a religion's role and history at U-M.
My hope is if the Muslims have a chaplain, then they can be part of the consistency of that (memory).
Founded in 1817, the University of Michigan is the oldest university in the state.
Filling a role he felt was missing during his college years, the chaplain aspires to help Muslim students fulfil their religious needs.
I was ... trying to understand how to grapple between that intellectual side and ... the spiritual side, Safi, 27, said.
There wasn't anybody to go to.
Safi graduated from Pioneer High School in 2002 and then finished U-M's Teaching Arabic as a Foreign Language program to become a graduate student instructor of Arabic.
He received bachelors' degrees in political science and Middle Eastern and North African studies from U-M in 2006.
After graduation, Safi spent two years studying Arabic and Islam in Egypt and Yemen. He worked as a youth director at a Canton mosque for two years.
Growing up in Ann Arbor, Safi opines that the city's Muslim population was still trying to integrate in the society, which justifies the absence of a more organized Muslim nucleus at the university campus.
Overseas they don't necessarily need these types of positions because the state interacts with universities, Safi said.
Muslims are new to this field, they're dealing with raising money and creating organization to do this.
The chaplain says that many Muslims move away after completing school, making it more difficult for Muslims to create a stable presence.
The dynamic of Ann Arbor is different, he said.People come here for school and leave, so there's not a long-standing population of Muslims, although it's growing.