The International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT) has announced the beginning of an imam training program conducted by its Fairfax Institute in cooperation with the Hartford Seminary. According to the announcement:
History was made as March winded down when a group of 11 students began a week intensive course initiating their academic study for the pioneering Graduate Certificate in Imam Education. Professor Mahmoud Ayoub of Hartford Seminary in Hartford, CT taught the course on Major Themes in the Bible and the Qur’an at The Fairfax Institute (TFI) at IIIT. The graduate certificate program is a joint effort of Hartford and TFI and is taught at TFI premises. It aims at enhancing the academic, professional and pastoral qualifications of Imams, counselors, teachers and other religious leaders in the American Muslim community. The first cohort of 11 students are a very diverse group of persons, including imams on the job, aspiring imams and religious leaders, and two women. The entire certificate program consists of 24 credit hours of graduate level courses, including one course in residency at Hartford, and two supervised practicums. “We are very excited about this opportunity, and the first course has been a great mind-opener,” is the reaction of most students. “We want to go beyond the graduate certificate all the way to a D.Min or a Ph.D.,” say more than one student in the program.
This joint program represents another example of what appear to be growing links between IIIT and the Hartford Seminary where Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) president Ingrid Mattson is the director of the Director of the Macdonald Center for the Study of Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations, Director of the Islamic Chaplaincy Program, and Professor of Islamic Studies and Christian-Muslim Relations. In 2008, IIIT attempted to endow a chair at Temple University on behalf of Dr. Ayoub but the offer was suspended pending a federal investigation into the role of IIIT in the financing of a Florida think-tank that served as a front for Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Last December, IIIT announced the formation of its Council of Scholars which included Ms. Mattson as well as Dr. Ayoub and in February, IIIT held a joint open house with the Duncan Black Macdonald Center.
According to a recent Hudson Institute report, IIIIT was founded in the U.S. in 1980 by U.S. Muslim Brotherhood leaders including Jamal Barzinji and Hisham Altalib who wished to promote the “Islamization of Knowledge” and who were also early leaders of ISNA. IIIT was associated with the now defunct SAAR Foundation, a network of Islamic organizations located in Northern Virginia that was raided by the Federal government in March 2002 in connection with the financing of terrorism and both organizations had been under investigation at that time by the U.S. Justice Department until at least mid 2007. The organization appeared to have withdrawn from public view following the 2002 raids but seems to be enjoying a renaissance of late. IIIT has a network of affiliates located in Europe, Africa, the MIddle East, and Asia. Although little is known about the activities of these IIIT affiliates, recent posts have discussed plans by IIIT to construct colleges in Bosnia and Lebanon.