BERKELEY, Calif. – A new Islamic college recently opened its doors in California with plans to educate a new generation of Muslim-American leaders.
Founded by three prominent Islamic scholars, Zaytuna College in Berkeley is a small school with just five faculty members and 15 students in its inaugural freshman class. The school wants to become the country's first fully accredited Muslim academic institution.
Zaytuna, which means "olive tree" in Arabic, offers an education that combines training in Arabic language and Islamic scholarship with courses in the humanities and social sciences. There have been other attempts to start Muslim colleges in the US, but those schools have closed or remained obscure.
Students of all faiths are welcome at Zaytuna, but its first freshman class is made up of an ethnically diverse group of nine women and six men who are all Muslims. Most students wear head scarves or skull caps and participate in afternoon prayer.