A Muslim college in California has been given accreditation by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, making it the first accredited Muslim College in the United States.
Zaytuna College, a liberal arts school in Berkeley, California, received an approval letter stating the school had been given “initial accreditation.” The letter went on to say that the school may confer an accredited “Bachelor of Arts in Islamic Law and Theology.”
The college was also offered praise for its work to gain the accreditation, a label which “adds value” to colleges while at the same time increasing “accountability,” reports Jennifer Kabbany for The College Fix.
“Five years ago, we introduced an undergraduate liberal arts program inspired by the idea of restoring the holistic education that had been offered in the great teaching centers of Islamic civilization,” President Hamza Yusuf stated on the school’s website. “Today, Zaytuna’s accreditation roots this vision in a reality recognized within American higher education. It gives our community its first accredited academic address in the United States. And we hope, God willing, that there will be more such Muslim colleges and universities to come.”
Zaytuna was founded in 1996, briefly operating as a Muslim seminary before transitioning to a Muslim liberal arts college in 2009. The first freshman class entered the school in 2010, with the first official graduation occurring in 2014.
The current student body totals about 30 students. According to the school’s website, the mission of the institution is written as “grounding students in the Islamic scholarly tradition as well as the cultural currents and critical ideas shaping modern society.”
Jack Jenkins reports for Think Progress that although there are many religiously-affiliated colleges across the country, most of them are Christian, including the University of Notre Dame, Kenyon College and Boston College. There are also a few Jewish colleges, such as Brandeis and Yeshiva University, and a handful of Buddhist schools, but there had been no Muslim Colleges in America to receive accreditation prior to Zaytuna. The school noted that it does not discriminate on the basis “of age, race, sex, religion, or national/ethnic origin in the admission of applicants.”
Administrators at the school remain hopeful that the accreditation will open the doors to a greater acceptance of Islamic education in the country, and Muslims as a group in general.
“[Accreditation] gives our community its first accredited academic address in the United States,” Yusuf said. “And we hope, God willing, that there will be more such Muslim colleges and universities to come.”