America’s First Muslim College Seeks to Bridge Islamic Culture and Western Values

Though it first opened its doors in 2010, Zaytuna College likely is an unfamiliar institution to most Americans. Currently boasting a student body of 31, Zaytuna is America’s first Muslim college, and Al Jazeera reports that its “mission is to join Islamic scholarship with the Western academic emphasis on free inquiry and developing critical intellectual capacities.”

Zaytuna currently rents space from the American Baptist Seminary of the West in Berkeley, California. The institution eventually will be moving, however, to a location purchased in 2012 at Berkeley’s “Holy Hill.” Reporting on the purchase in May 2012, the San Francisco Business Times noted the religious diversity of this new location:

So when it settles into its new space, Zaytuna will find itself rubbing elbows with neighbors like the Unitarian Universalists at Starr King School for the Ministry (right next door), the Episcopalians at Church Divinity School of the Pacific (around the corner), the Pacific School of Religion (a multi-denominational seminary of the United Church of Christ, the United Methodist Church and the Disciples of Christ, just across the street) and three Catholic seminaries — Dominican, Franciscan and Jesuit. Source

According to The Blaze, the institution seeks to “rival some of America’s best religious seminaries and general educational facilities” while also bridging Islamic culture and western values. The Zaytuna website interestingly explains how it believes that Islam may become better “rooted” in a country:

Islam has never become rooted in a particular land until that land began producing its own religious scholars. There are several million Muslims in the United States and rapidly growing Muslim populations in Canada, Great Britain, and Western Europe. Yet, there are no accredited academic institutions capable of training students in the varied sciences of Islam, while also instilling in them a sophisticated understanding of the intellectual history and culture of the West. Clearly, there is an essential need for Muslim institutions that can wed Islam’s classical texts with the contemporary context. Source

Zaytuna College is not yet accredited, but actively is working toward that goal.