The Diwan Foundation has announced the appointment of Yasin Ahmed as Cornell’s first Muslim chaplain earlier this month.

The Diwan Foundation has announced the appointment of Yasin Ahmed as Cornell’s first Muslim chaplain earlier this month.

August 27, 2017

Cornell Appoints First Muslim Chaplain

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The Diwan Foundation for Cornell Muslim Life has announced the appointment of Yasin Ahmed as Cornell’s first Muslim chaplain earlier this month — an appointment that the Diwan Foundation has had in its goals for many years. But, this historical achievement did not come without its difficulties.

The biggest obstacle to the appointment was funding. Unlike other Ivy League institutions, Cornell’s charter does not provide funding for religious positions. Instead, this position will be funded by the donations of alumni and other supporters.

Past members of the Cornell Muslim community said the chaplaincy was long overdue for the Muslim community.

“We’ve been trying for a very long time, for the chaplaincy,” said Fariha Ahsan ’13, a member of the Diwan Foundation — the group that ultimately appointed Ahmed. “We’re finally at the stage where we could get funding for a sustainable position.”

Ahmed — who has his Masters in Christian and Muslim relations from Hartford Seminary — said that his discovery of faith pushed him toward a role where he could help others.

“When I found Islam, it was something that really helped me realize my potential for my humanity,” he said. “When I realized that, with the help of both Christians and Muslims, I decided to use that newfound humanity to help others find it as well.”

Ahmed hopes to use his newfound position to build a stronger community on Cornell’s campus.

“We’re working on relationships that establishes a community that looks out for each other and for those who are not within the community itself,” he said. “[We want] to value each individual and inculcate that ethic and that ethos into individuals so that they carry it into whoever else they meet.”

Ahsan describes a rigorous application process to find the candidate most suitable for the role.

“There was a first stage of interviewing, which consisted of the board of directors and the Diwan Foundation. We then had the top three candidates interview with students, CURW administration and our board of advisors. We also paid for them to visit the Cornell campus and hold sessions with students,” she said. “After that process, we selected [Ahmed].”

While the chaplain will have many duties, Ahsan, who used to serve as president of the Muslim Educational and Cultural Association, is particularly excited about the increased representation Ahmed will provide for Muslim students.

“Part of my role as president of MECA was to attend the Cornell United Religious Works meetings, which was mainly for chaplains and leadership. I was the only student there,” she said. “The chaplain will be our representative at the CURW meetings and he will be providing that voice for Muslim students.”

Along with this new representation, Ahmed said he plans to work with other faith-based groups at the CURW meetings.

Syed Samin ’19, current MECA president, is also optimistic about potential for unification among students in the community.

“There are so many Muslims on campus, but there’s a large divide,” he said. “Ahmed’s job as chaplain will be to help Muslims come together, as much as possible, and get to know each other and help build a community.”

As an additional component of his position, Ahmed will be delivering Friday sermons, as well as leading small group discussions. Ahmed emphasized that within his role, he hopes to become a confidante for any student.

“We’re really excited to build a community at Cornell that is encompassing of everybody’s humanity and to focus on that for the sake of God,” Ahmed said.

  • You are blessed to have such an amazing and compassionate Imam join Cornell University! Take care of him.

    • George Glass

      He’s a real mensch alright

  • Guy

    hopefully he will be able to shed light on the appalling treatment of women within the muslim religion? I have traveled in Turkey and Indonesia, but a while ago. I found the people to be very pleasant, but with each passing year…it appears that the faith is turning more hardcore and the treatment of women…appalling…hence so many people fleeing places where the muslim faith is in the majority. What is his stance on spreading islam to the west and women’s role in society? How many women iman’s are there?

    • RhettB72

      Islam has historically treated women better than either Judaism or Christianity. Islam gave women the right to own property and inherit, as well as testify in court — all forbidden by Jews and Christians until the 20th century. You should read “The Scimitar and the Veil” by Jennifer Heath, which recounts the lives of many powerful Muslim women, ranging from queens to warriors. The oldest university in the world, the University of Al Quaraouiyine in Morocco, was founded by a Muslim woman, Fatima al-Fihri in 859 CE. Its graduates include Maimonides, the most famous Jewish scholar of the medieval world.

      • George Glass

        Is that the same Islamic court where a woman’s testimony counts 1/4 as much as a man’s?

        Yes, I’m sure women CHOOSE to wear a burka in the desert heat and to look like a ninja’s ghost. SLAVERY IS FREEDOM as Orwell wrote in 1984.

        I’m sure Muslim women love wearing a tarp in the West while their oh-so-pious Islamic husbands slop around in Nikes and American Eagle graphic t-shirts and polos and other Western attire. Seems totally egalitarian.

        Muslim women who claim they are CHOOSING such oppressive attire freely are no different than girls who are kidnapped and brainwashed by their abductors and develop Stockholm Syndrome.

    • PulloS

      Stereotypes, Stereotypes!!!!! I am a Muslim woman born and raised in Africa and what you are saying is utter nonsense. People are fleeing Muslim lands because the US is waging wars and proxy wars in those lands. Go get an education!

  • Jay Wind

    The sentence, “Unlike other Ivy League institutions, Cornell’s charter does not provide funding for religious positions.” is misleading. All university positions are either funded from tuition or gifts. In some cases, a university was first founded by a religious group, so the gifts from the followers of that religion funded a chaplain position as well as the school as a whole. Cornell was founded as NY State’s land grant institution so the biggest source of funds was the American taxpayers and Ezra Cornell’s gift. The University’s charter did not want the school to affiliate with any one religious denomination and requires diversity in the religious beliefs of its Board of Trustees. There are many professors who focus upon religion as well as the Director of CURW on the Cornell payroll.

    Can the author give any examples of a university charter which requires that a muslim chaplain position be funded?

    Having a muslim chaplain strikes me as an interesting experiment. If he fails to add value, then people will not donate to fund his position. For many years, Anabel Taylor Hall was the only place for muslims to worship in Tompkins county. It will be interesting to see if it is economically viable to have both a full time on-campus chaplain and a separate congregation in Lansing NY.