A theological college known widely for its research and resources has been awarded a one million dollar gift from an Islamic think tank to help endow a professorship in Islamic Studies and Christian-Muslim Relations. Announced Tuesday, the gift to Hartford Seminary will allow the Connecticut school to “continue – and expand – our leadership education programs for chaplains and imams,” reported Hartford President Dr. Heidi Hadsell. “Hartford Seminary is truly honored to be the recipient of this generous gift, which shows the commitment of IIIT to both education and service to the American Muslim community,” she added after announcing the gift from the International Institute of Islamic Thought in Herndon, Va. Presently, Hartford Seminary’s Islamic Chaplaincy Program is the only accredited chaplaincy program for Muslims in the United States. The program, which started ten years ago, educates chaplains for service in the military, colleges, prisons and hospitals. According to the non-denominational school, many of the religious needs of Muslims are being addressed through the aforementioned institutions. In Monday’s announcement, IIIT Vice President Dr. Jamal Barzinji said the Islamic think tank was impressed with Hartford Seminary’s dedication to educating and preparing chaplains and imams for leadership in their professions. “An endowed chair will help expand and enhance these programs,” he added. “Establishing endowed chairs in American academia is in line with IIIT’s goal of promoting scholarship in the study of Islam in America.” According to Hartford, the first holder of the endowed chair will be Dr. Timur Yuskaev, assistant professor of Contemporary Islam and director of the Islamic Chaplaincy Program. In his remarks, Yuskaev said his particular emphasis will be on “contributing to Hartford’s impressive record of working with Muslim congregations and organizations, in the local area and beyond.” Hartford, in cooperation with IIIT and its Fairfax Institute in Herndon, Va., has begun a pilot Graduate Certificate in Imam Education that will prepare Muslim religious leaders for service in mosques and community agencies throughout the Greater Washington, D.C. area. Hartford Seminary’s Macdonald Center for the Study of Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations is the country’s oldest center for such study.”
An earlier post discussed the beginning of an imam training program conducted by the Fairfax Institute, a part of IIIT, in cooperation with the Hartford Seminary. This program along with the grant discussed above represent growing links between IIIT and the Hartford Seminary where former 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.