Opinion: Muslim college is a significant milestone in religious freedom, but caution is needed

Graphic by Sammy Dewey, Graphic Designer

Graphic by Sammy Dewey, Graphic Designer

News & Lifestyle Editor, Abbi Webb 

Earlier this month, a new religious college was accredited in Berkeley, Calif. The first of its kind, the college only offers one degree program: a Bachelor of arts in Islamic law and theology.

The Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) recognized Zaytuna College, now the first Muslim college in America, equating it with all other accredited, high-learning private and public colleges in the U.S.

The college caters to 50 undergraduate students, all proclaimed Muslims, who are taught a strong foundation in the history of Western civilization and Islamic civilization, according to its catalog.

First year courses at Zaytuna engage students in the classical liberal arts such as, English grammar and Western literature. However, each student must also take Islamic law and Arabic courses, as well as recite parts of the Quran and preform community service before graduating.

The five-year-old institution began as a seminary and was granted accreditation on March 4, 2015 by the WASC for “creating a rigorous and high quality learning experience,…to fulfill a critical defining role within the Islamic faith community,” according to the commission action letter written to Zaytuna.

The opening of a Muslim college is a significant milestone in America’s exercise of religious freedom, but caution must be taken to Muslim institutions that may not be promoting peaceful relations with the West.

Tony Beam, Vice-President for Student Services and Christian Worldview at North Greenville University, said that centers dedicated to Sharia Law and an influx of Muslim culture are definitely going to occur in the West.

 Beam said that a religious college would only receive accreditation because it has adhered to a goal and consistently operated within the framework of what it says it is.

 We can see the accreditation of Zaytuna College as a good thing if it is not teaching jihadist principles and encouraging violence against Westerners, Beam said.

 If it adheres to the school’s mission of raising up balanced students, who simply learn how to practice their faith peacefully in a non-Islamic environment, then Zaytuna is rightfully practicing religious freedom.   

 A potential problem would be if students from Zaytuna  begin to lack the desire to live in the West and are motivated to create Muslim districts, isolated from Western culture, that practice only Sharia Law.  

 If this were to happen, the exercise of religious freedom could easily turn into a threat to American and Christian values.