A non-profit Muslim college in Berkeley, California, became the first officially recognised Islamic institution after receiving formal academic accreditation.
“Today, Zaytuna’s accreditation roots this vision in a reality recognised within American higher education,” Hamza Yusuf, president of the college, said in a statement, celebrating the announcement on Sunday.
The liberal-arts school announced it was formally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), one of the six official academic bodies responsible for authorising public and private colleges and universities in the United States.
In its letter granting Zaytuna accreditation, WASC lauded the school for its “rigorous and high-quality learning experience, one that… can be viewed as an exemplar in the liberal arts tradition,” according to thinkprocess.org.
“[Accreditation] helps ensure that Zaytuna successfully fulfills the objectives outlined in its curriculum, which grounds its students in both the Islamic and Western scholarly traditions,” the statement added.
Zaytuna was founded in 1996 as an institute by Hamza Yusuf, Zaid Shakir, and Hesham Alalus and briefly operated as an Islamic seminary before dedicating itself to becoming a Muslim liberal arts college in 2009.
The college conferred its first undergraduate degrees in 2014. It has a student body of around 30 students, and offers a BA in Islamic Law and Theology and courses in Politics, Astronomy, and American History, among others.
Religiously-affiliated colleges are plentiful in the United States, but the vast majority are Christian, such as Liberty University, the University of Notre Dame, Kenyon College, or Boston College.
There are a few Jewish higher education institutions, such as Brandeis and Yeshiva University, and even some Buddhist schools, but there were no accredited American Muslim colleges until Zaytuna was recognised by WASC on Sunday.
The school says it does not discriminate in admissions on the basis “of age, race, sex, religion, or national/ethnic origin in the admission of applicants.”
Administrators said while being the first accredited Muslim school is an honour, they hope their success leads to greater acceptance of their style of Islamic education — and Muslims at large.
“[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.”