American-Born Muslim Fails To Find Work As An Imam
Although the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and the coming of age of a generation of American-born Muslims have triggered a call for spiritual leaders rooted in U.S. culture, most American mosques are led by imams from overseas who aren't fluent in English.Of course, the matter of real concern isn't that overseas imams don't speak English well. Rather, the real concern is that mosques in the United States, and indeed throughout the West, import Wahhabist imams.
Quoting again from the above-cited article about the plight of Adeel Zeb, volunteer chaplain at D.C.'s American University and one who has, thus far, been able to obtain a position as the imam of a mosque here in America:
Zeb's job hunt illustrates the challenges of transforming what it means to be an imam in the United States.In my view, we'd go a long way toward curbing "radical" Islam here in the West if immigration officials banned the importation of Wahhabist imams.
He was born in New Jersey and grew up outside Dallas as the ambitious eldest child of Pakistani immigrants who were expecting him, like the rest of the men in his family, to become a doctor or lawyer. And that was his direction, until he went to Mecca as a teen. Standing before the cube-shaped Kaaba, a building that Islamic tradition teaches was built by Abraham, Zeb says he felt the awe and power of history and the proximity to the divine.
He returned home transformed. He began worshipping at a mosque in Waco and giving sermons. After graduating from Baylor University with a management degree, he got a job overseeing a cardiology clinic, but he longed to spend more time studying Islam.
He received a bachelor's degree in Islamic studies after studying on weekends and became a spokesman for the local branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. He did Muslim outreach for two Texas members of Congress and helped navigate civil rights discussions with the departments of Justice and Homeland Security.
His two-page résumé is filled with other faith-related experience: youth mentor at mosques, organizer of Islamic charity fundraisers and banquets, working with AU's Muslim students.
Yet he has been stymied in his efforts to land a paid position at a mosque.
Zeb's future remains unsettled. Although he's pursuing interviews with mosques across the country, he's exploring alternatives, including opening a center to train Muslim chaplains for universities. He's open to politics. Or being a professor and spiritual motivational speaker.
For now, he says, those might be more viable options than becoming a full-time, home-grown imam.
Doing so would be - ahem - Islamophobic. Can't have that! **snerk**