29 Sep Season 2. Episode 6: AMC Chaplains: Holding Ourselves Accountable, Part One
Jaye Starr is Membership Chair of the Association of Muslim Chaplains. Co-editor of Mantle of Mercy: Islamic Chaplaincy in North America, she is a healthcare chaplain and facilitates refugee-centered Alternatives to Violence Project workshops with Mercy USA. Jaye is a graduate of Hartford International University’s Islamic Chaplaincy Program, and has also studied with the Institute of Knowledge, Al-Balaghy, Fawakih, and the Fellowship for Study of Professional Ethics at Auschwitz. She serves on the ethics committees of AMC and Michigan Medicine and is raising two small children with her husband, a fellow chaplain.
Lauren Schreiber is Vice President of Community Chaplaincy for the Association of Muslim Chaplains, and current chair of the Ethics Committee. She is the Executive Director and cofounder of Center DC (link for more information), a third-space community in Washington, DC serving over 4,000 Muslims, that focuses on building authentic relationships between those practicing and exploring Islam and the Divine. She is a student in the Islamic Chaplaincy Program at Hartford International University (formerly Hartford Seminary), and has completed one unit of clinical pastoral education (CPE). Lauren is married to a youth director and is the mother of a young daughter.
Joshua Salaam is President of the Association of Muslim Chaplains and is the Muslim Chaplain at Duke University since 2018. He holds an MA in Religious Studies and a Doctorate of Ministry from Hartford International University. Dr. Salaam served in the U.S. Air Force as a Police officer for four years. In addition, he worked with the Council on American-Islamic Relations and helped oversee a Muslim community and neighborhood development project in Baltimore. Between 2007 – 2018, he worked as the youth director at the ADAMS Center in Northern Virginia.
AMC Chaplains: Holding Ourselves Accountable, Part One
The following transcript has been edited for fluency.
[SHOW MELODY FADES IN]
[00:00:00] Dr. Ingrid Mattson: Hello, assalamu alaykum. Welcome to the Hurma Project Podcast, where we seek to close the gap between our Islamic values and our Muslim community realities. I am Dr. Ingrid Mattson, founder of the Hurma Project which I direct with my friend and partner, Mihad Fahmy, a human rights lawyer and workplace investigator, and a lecturer at Huron University College where I am also Chair of Islamic Studies.
[00:00:43] Hurma is an Islamic legal term signifying the divinely granted and inviolability of the human person from abuse, assault, and exploitation. In this podcast, we speak with experts from a variety of fields about how to prevent and respond to violations against all those who are present in Muslim spaces.
[00:01:07] Today we speak with three leaders of the Association of Muslim Chaplains, Jaye Starr, Chair of membership, Lauren Schreiber, Chair of the Ethics Committee, and Dr. Joshua Salaam, President of the Association. We speak with them about the development of their code of conduct and their efforts to develop a model of accountability that is effective and rooted in Islamic norms .
[00:01:38] We have posted biographical information and relevant links for each of our guests on the Hurma Project website, hurmaproject.com. The Association of Muslim Chaplains is a professional association which supports Muslim chaplains by ensuring they have access to the resources, tools, and training to provide the highest quality spiritual care in public and private institutions in the United States while advancing the field of Islamic chaplaincy.
[00:02:14] More information about the Association can be found on their website: associationofmuslimchaplains.org. This is part one of our conversation, the second half will follow in the next episode of the Humer Project Podcast.
[00:02:36] Mihad Fahmy: When we met in Chicago in the spring, I had an opportunity to learn and listen from you and your colleagues about the really rich and diverse work of Muslim chaplains. And I wonder if we could just start there. Because I think the term Muslim chaplain really remains unclear for many people. And in fact, I think it’s also misunderstood, and I think it’s misunderstood to apply specifically and very particularly to certain institutions. So the two that come to mind are prisons and hospitals. And so I wonder if we could start by having you explain really the scope of what a chaplain’s work is and looks like and can look like, and highlight the difference between what a chaplain’s role is and what an Imam’s role is. So let’s start there.
[00:03:35] Joshua Salaam: Okay, I’m going to jump in. This is brother Joshua here, and I feel like you kind of had two questions there. And I’ll try to address both of ’em and then deal with follow up. But I have a funny story. When I first got to Duke as a chaplain, there was a Sudanese young man, he was a first year student. And we were, after jumʿah, we were introducing each other and, “Oh, you know, what school are you in? What are you studying?” And then so he said, “And and what’s your name?” I said, “My name’s Brother Joshua.” He said, “Okay, you work here?” I said, “Yeah, I’m the Muslim chaplain here.” And he shook his head for about two seconds. And then he said, “What’s that?” Right? So this is a student who’s been born and raised Muslim. He’s first year student involved with the Muslim community. In his mind, he can’t connect what a Muslim Chaplain is. It didn’t register for him. And so I think it’s a great question, and I think that’s still the condition of most Muslims in America that, what is a chaplain? Is it an Imam? You know, what are you doing? And I will say that technically, maybe it’s still open to a lot of people of what Muslim Chaplaincy is, and I think we as an organization are trying to solidify that, this is what Muslim Chaplaincy is in America. And so for me, I would say it’s focusing on emotional supports, focusing on spiritual support and not, just focusing on what’s halal, what’s haram, what can I do, what can I not do? There’s two examples that I would give you to kind of help understand what that is. One, in the Christian tradition, they used to have traditionally they had a priest who was somebody who knew everything that they needed to know about the text. You know what God says about this, what He says about that the history, then it would have preachers who were very good at disseminating that information and inspiring the community to do something.
[00:05:15] And then it had this category called “wise men” who were people that would kind of walk with the people. They weren’t the priests, they weren’t the preachers, but they could understand people’s condition, right? This is a person who, their parent abandoned them, you know, they just are trying to get back into the faith. They’re maybe they have a drug addiction, maybe they have a temper issue, and so I have to kind of massage or bridge some of the stuff that the priest is saying, some of the stuff that the preacher’s saying, which is really for the entire community. Now, how do, how does this person absorb that information? We haven’t had that official role in the community to our knowledge for a long time. There have been some scholars who get it and they’ll say something like, “This is a general fatwa, but you know, to really answer that, sister, I need your particular situation.” Because they’ve, they have seen it in the prophetic model where the Prophet may give somebody specific information, like, “You don’t get angry.” Right. That’s my advice to you,” this other guy who nobody really likes, “if there’s two people, you should not be in charge, somebody else needs to be in charge.” So sometimes it would be very specific.
[00:06:20] And so I think that’s kind of what we see as chaplaincy is walking with Muslim students trying to listen intently to their condition, their situation. It’s not always counseling. Sometimes they’re just in a good mood. Sometimes they just wanna express how happy they are with their grades or what they recovered from an injury. And then sometimes it’s the opposite. “Why did Allah do this to me? Why am I in the hospital? Why am I in prison? Why?” These type of questions and not feeling like we’re the ones that can answer, like we represent God in some type of capacity, but more like we have been trained to listen to you here beyond your question of what you’re really feeling and experiencing on an emotional level and a spiritual level, and then help you navigate that from our tradition, from the text of the Quran, from what we know in the Sunnah. Maybe not always giving it to you, maybe asking you what you know, “How do you understand this hadith how do you understand these verses?” so that’s kind of where our training comes in and why I think it’s important not to call ourselves or think of ourselves as Imams, because what if the student that I’m working with is a different type of Muslim. Maybe I’m working with an Ahmadiyya Muslim. Maybe I’m working with Ismaili Muslim. Maybe I’m working with a Bohri Muslim. My understanding of hadith and which hadith are valid, or the understanding is gonna be completely different from them. And so they have to see me as not completely neutral, but somebody that understands that we’re different. But I’m still going to work with you to help you navigate your journey to get closer to Allah subhana wa ta’alah. So I hope that maybe addresses a general intro into the question. I’m sure my peers here have something to add, but lemme know if you have any follow up.
[00:07:52] Mihad Fahmy: Great. Lauren or Jaye, do you have anything to add to that?
[00:07:56] Jaye Starr: I think, perhaps not an add, but a summary of what Joshua is saying is a Muslim Chaplain is a religious professional who’s trained to provide spiritual accompaniment that draws in the compassion and mercy of our own tradition with a care seeker, no matter what religion or spiritual practice they’re coming from, or perhaps not at all, but to be with them through the difficulty and through the hardship, and occasionally through the celebrations as well, and to provide support. So there’s a story, Joshua too, you brought up a story. I think a lot of people don’t realize this. In the 1970s when the New York State Corrections Department first began hiring Muslim Chaplains, part of that was to help establish institutional really authority and control over the Muslim congregations within the prison system. And obviously that grows out of racism and Islamophobia and some other complicated things. But when they were first hired, they came in and were presented as Chaplains. And inmate communities said great, you may be the Chaplain, but we already have an Imam or we already have a wasir who’s been appointed by our congregation, and therefore you have some stuff you do for the prison, but we’re still in charge of leading the jumʿah and and the other programs.” And so the New York State Department of Correction System made a decision to call all of their chaplains Imams as part of establishing their religious authority over the congregation of Muslims within the prison system. That still continues within most corrections systems. And it’s a little bit complicated because many chaplains step into the role of Imam on Friday to lead the jumʿah or to lead prayers throughout the day. And so there can be a waning and waxing in and out of roles as well.
[00:09:27] Mihad Fahmy: Yeah, no, thanks for that. That clarifies the roles and some of the overlaps it sounds like as well between the two potentially anyway. And I’ve heard you mention, so students, Muslim students and the prison system. Before we move on, could you just highlight some other context in which or communities and environments in which chaplains may assist and support?
[00:09:48] Joshua Salaam: And I haven’t heard from Lauren, but our organization deals with five, primarily we have prisons, hospitals, military, educational institutions, and community chaplains.
[00:10:00] Dr. Ingrid Mattson: Lauren, maybe you can talk a little bit about community chaplaincy since that’s your field.
[00:10:06] Lauren Schreiber: Sure. So community chaplaincy is what I feel like when looking at the whole different options of offerings where chaplains operate, community chaplaincy in many ways feels like one of the fields where muslim chaplaincy is developing even more so because, as you all may know, this idea of chaplains being institutionally based different communities operating as their own institution have whole different structures and systems that are oftentimes much smaller. If we take, for example, many mosques, their imam might not even be a paid staff person. And so the idea of like structure and administration and all the processes, I think community chaplaincy in many ways is a field where chaplains are offering service to community members in a different capacity than the imam. The imam may be somebody who provides information similar to that way Joshua outlined, whereas the chaplain gets to really walk through and help that person experience support in a relationship-based way.
[00:11:07] One of the things that we do at Center DC is that we oftentimes will bring scholars and teachers in to teach things like fiqh or ʿaqāʾida, and what happens is, our communities sometimes may be rustled by these things. They might have some feelings that arise or some difficulty, some internal struggle that happens when they learn this information. So for us, one of the ways that community chaplaincy shows up is that we’re there to help catch the community members when they’re struggling and to sit with them and to really hold them and say, “Wow, I really see you thinking through this. What does that mean to you? How will this appear in your life?” And so I see the role of chaplaincy in many ways helping to support communities in a more holistic way. Chaplaincy also gives Muslim women a leadership title. I know as an “Executive Director” of a community, that’s a wonderful title to have, but when it comes to spiritual leadership or spiritual presence or spiritual guidance having the term “Chaplain,” be a training that’s accessible to us really is a big deal. It levels the playing field and makes space for women to lead in a religious space.
[00:12:12] Mihad Fahmy: So we’re really looking forward to getting into the Code of Conduct of the Association of Muslim Chaplains, and we’re gonna do that in a minute. But I’m just wondering if you can just talk to us a little bit about, Jaye, maybe you can lead this question and that is how is it that the association came to be. I think many people would be actually quite surprised that there is an association, a professional association for chaplains in America. Can you tell us a little bit about the development of the organization?
[00:12:45] Jaye Starr: Yeah, sure. So there were several early attempts to establish a professional association for Muslim Chaplains including going back to the New York State Department of Corrections in the 1970s and eighties through the nineties. Under Dr I think Dr. Mattson, you were involved with the early Muslim Chaplain’s Association. Right. So a group of Dr. Mattson’s students at Hartford began an early effort, and there was also for a time the Association of Campus Muslim Chaplain. And in 2010, a group of Muslim Chaplains and other religious leaders came together to look at a number of different things related to the developing professionalism of chaplaincy. So we often hear that chaplaincy is new to the Muslim community, and I would argue that it’s actually really not new. We’ve had Muslim chaplains as far back as the 1970s, but also possibly as far back as the 1960s. What’s changed though is a growing professionalism within the field and a growing awareness of the presence of Muslim chaplains and a growing number. And so in 2010, a group gathered and they looked at developing and the code of ethics was a core part of that original development. So professional defined by a field of work that has recognized competencies and established training processes, a code of ethics and a professional association to help maintain those. And so in 2011, the Association of Muslim Chaplains was launched as a new organization that drew from previous attempts, but the Code of Ethics was a really central part of that effort moving forward. It began over the first few years with several dozen Chaplains, very highly involved with Hartford Seminary, now Hartford International University students and chaplains, particularly throughout New England. And we are now over 230 members strong. We’ve got real diversity within our membership. Joshua spoke earlier about our different fields are relatively equally represented outside of military and community chaplaincy where numbers are still developing we have a significant presence of women within the organization and within professional chaplaincy at large.
[00:14:33] Dr. Ingrid Mattson: Jaye, you had mentioned that AMC initially had a Code of Ethics, and that Code of Ethics was transformed into a Code of Conduct. And we’re aware that you are currently still updating, discussing, editing this Code of Conduct. And you know, I think that is that whole process will be of interest to many people because there might be an impression that, you know, mashallah, the chaplains have it all together. They’ve figured this out. They have the Code of Conduct, they’re on their way, really taking care of this accountability piece. But I know that this is an ongoing process for you, and you’re still in the middle of it. So can you tell us a little bit about what made you decide to shift from a Code of Ethics to a Code of Conduct and what’s the difference between those two things?
[00:15:27] Jaye Starr: Yeah, I can talk a little bit about that. So our original Code of Ethics was a little bit more based around conceptual ideas as opposed to actionable items. And so when we look at accountability and being clear about what are specific types of things that would be problematic, and how people need to act within the bounds of the ethics. So the ethics sort of guide the action. And so in the revised Code of Conduct, it’s a little bit more focused in on action to help us increase the accountability and the clarity. I think really for our membership to understand where those boundaries are, like it’s beautiful to say that a Muslim chaplain should follow the Qur’an and Sunnah and I believe they absolutely should. The challenge is there’s many different interpretations of what it looks like to follow the Qur’an and Sunnah, and so that in and of itself isn’t really a functional starting point for having an organizational mechanism for ensuring adherence to correct behavior within a professional context. And so the current Code, which has a lot of work to do still, I think we can all agree that’s sort of the framework in which it developed. And it also built in some clarity about what the process would look like if and when a complaint comes forward. And that’s another area we’re still, we got a lot more development to do.
[00:16:42] Dr. Ingrid Mattson: Now those statements of faith, those ideals, those principles, those ethics. They’re still present in the Code of Conduct in the, is it a preamble you have or-?
[00:16:53] Jaye Starr: Yeah they’re present in the- So all of our members are asked to take a pledge and in it, it identifies that one will look to the Qur’an as a prophetic model, authentic traditions, and establish scholarly opinions to promote spirituality, goodness, compassion, and justice, and to serve with compassion, sincerity, and integrity the people who may seek help, counsel and advice, it is very much a part of things, and they go together. So when a member signs onto the Code of Conduct, they’re also signing on to that pledge. But in the Code itself, it details out a little bit more of the manifestations.
[00:17:29] Lauren Schreiber: One of the things that came out of the work session that we had really around language had to do with exactly what you just mentioned, Jaye, which was having the Islamic principles tied directly to the professional terminology that people might find in other types of codes, recognizing that our tradition has lots of this language built in, and these values are built into Islamic principles in the way we operate and wanting that to be very apparent and clear within the Code. And so the group that’s working on the language part specifically of updating our Code, one of the proposed ideas that, that I know came out of the work session was a complete rewrite, a reframing of the language to be able to identify those principles early on, to lay them out so that there’s no doubt where these concepts are coming from, that it’s connected to the tradition and it’s connected to the ways that a professional chaplain should show up.
[00:18:21] Dr. Ingrid Mattson: I realize this is ongoing, and as you mentioned, after the working session in March in Chicago, a number of groups came out of that subcommittee is working on different parts. So you’re talking about the language here, but could you give us perhaps one specific example of a behavior- realizing that this is not complete yet, but can you give one example of, for example, a point of conduct that you’re trying to link to or that you’ve been able to link to, say, an Islamic principle or concept, or that at least you’re thinking about.
[00:18:57] Joshua Salaam: I wanted to, it was something that we discussed earlier that I kind of wanna give as an umbrella for this, that subhanallah, no one can write something as masterful as the Qur’an. Right? That’s the challenge that Allah has put out there. If you think you can do it, bring yourself, bring the Jinn, you’re not even gonna do a verse. And that document lives and it just keeps going. Our minuscule document that we’re working on is going to probably need multiple rewrites, is probably gonna have to keep being revisited every so often to adjust to changing climates. Maybe there’s a new situation that happens that we realize didn’t really address it in this language, and we need to update it. So we have to be ready and willing to look at this as a living document that we go to regularly, that we update our members about regularly because we know that we are a creature that is forgetful. You know, like, “What did I sign when I joined AMC? I don’t remember what was it?” So I just wanted to give us permission that’s gonna be what we have to do because it’s not divine. It’s our little project that we’re trying to do our best. And we’re going to keep working on it. And we appreciate Dr. Mattson and others like pulling these questions out of us because for us, this is part of the process that we have to go through to keep this document relevant and and meaningful.
[00:20:06] Dr. Ingrid Mattson: Yeah. Yes, I can see that. And I think that’s helpful for others to, to hear that, that this is something that, you know, you have a lot of humility about high ideals, but the humility of the challenge of really finding something that’s going to be effective and continue. That you are continually open to feedback and criticism, and updates.
[00:20:30] Jaye Starr: Lauren, did you have an example?
[00:20:32] Lauren Schreiber: You know, that’s a good point. I was looking back to see the notes to find out, and I think the one, I mean one of the examples I think that came out from the work session was talking about a sense of rahma, compassion and really kind of grounding the work in that. Another part that was mentioned was the idea of trustworthiness. Being connected to honoring amana like this trust, this great responsibility that’s divine in nature, and that being some of the grounding values that are informing the ethics work that are rooted in the tradition.
[00:21:04] Jaye Starr: I can hold up an example as well. One of them, one of the points within the Code of Conduct is that members shall practice within their scope of competence. And seek to develop and enhance their professional expertise. So because there is not an ordination process for a chaplain, alhumdulilah for that, there’s so much beauty in that. But it means that people are often hired as chaplains who don’t have training as chaplains. And depending on the institution where they are at, there may or may not be supervision to help them understand what the role of a Chaplain is. If one has not had supervised counseling training, they should not be providing counseling services. And this is very similar within the Islamic tradition, where we’re blessed to have a variety of professions, a variety of roles that serve the ummah, and people have, they’ve got their niche, they have their expertise in their spot because we recognize that one person cannot possibly fill all of these roles. So if you know, if you need a ruling, you need to go to the mufti to get that. Your imam may not be able to provide that depending on what their training is, just as your chaplain may not. But the ability to say, “I can’t provide that for you. This is who you need to go to.” So to be able to work within the scope of one’s training to be able to say, “I see that you are seeking a counselor or that you’re seeking a chaplain who can provide counseling. I am not trained in counseling. Here are some people that you can seek that to.” it’s a recognition. That we may not be able to do all of those roles. And I think that’s particularly important as we see institutions hiring what I would call really scholars in residence, which is so beautiful for like a college student to have access to a scholar in residence is beautiful, and I would love to see our community grow and support that. But when we title everybody a chaplain, part of the assumption of the professional skill set of a chaplain is that they be able to provide counseling. And what we often see is what people are giving is religious counsel and really a perpetration of what I would call spiritual bypassing, that can be deeply detrimental to the care seeker, and they’re doing it with the best of intentions, but they don’t understand where the limitations are in their training. And so I think we, when we look back, there’s a process of obtaining an ijza to be able to do certain things within the Islamic tradition, and I think with AMC we’re really looking at a similar parallel to that to ensure that people are working within their professional competancies.
[00:23:22] Dr. Ingrid Mattson: Right, so certification, and you might also think about the principle of that it’s better to avoid a harm than to do a good. So, you know, a lot of people might think maybe I can help them.” But the reality is that when someone has a complex issue that needs, you know, a mental health issue or even an family counseling, if they haven’t been trained in that area, they. may, with a good intention end up doing more harm than good. So certainly there are these qawa’id or these principles from Islam that could really help guide these expectations of staying within professional competency.
[00:24:05] Mihad Fahmy: And do you see that going beyond professional competency or beyond your scope of what you have been trained to do, when to practice, would that be a proper subject of a complaint? Like, do you envision somebody coming forward and saying that this person presented herself or himself, you know, as a trained counselor or “I was, you know, led to believe x, y, and z”? Is this, is it more of a statement or do you see it as being something that actually could be complained about and investigated?
[00:24:41] Joshua Salaam: That’s a great question. I would start by saying, I think we’re not likely to see the effects of it. I think what we have, more often is people just being harmed by it and not knowing what to do. Like, “I went to speak to this person, they gave me advice, and this is what happened. I don’t know why I did that. I don’t know why they said it.” so for instance, in the clinical pastoral education, sometimes what may come out is you’re recalling a scenario with your peers about somebody came into my office, you know, this would be talked, they told me this, I said that. Right? And then your peers will say, “Why did you say that?” You know what, you know, “Did you ask them this?” And you start realizing like, “Wow, there’s some steps that I missed,” and you kind of get to check yourself. But that person, that scenario’s gone. Maybe they told their mom, their cousin, but I don’t think it really comes out as a complaint. Unless there was something egregious that happens, that would be obviously a complaint. Like somebody said something that was just so offensive or they touched somebody or something like that.
[00:25:43] But these like in between conversations of not realizing your boundaries of trying to interpret Qur’anic text for people of what’s forbidden, what’s not forbidden, and not realizing that you’re coming from your own religious tradition, your own training, it may or may not match with that person. Counseling skills, like I have to constantly be reminded by when something is beyond my scope and I have to transfer them to the counseling and professional services at the University because I can’t help you with that. Right? That takes like constant engagement with my peers about, you know, these are things that really is beyond our scope of chaplains. After a while, you know, maybe sometimes you forget or you get comfortable or you know, Covid, something happens that just distracts you and you can fall back into bad practices. So I think there will be some complaints, but I think more often what we see is just stories of harm that’s been done from people saying something that they shouldn’t have said or doing something that they shouldn’t have done in their role as a chaplain.
[00:26:42] Dr. Ingrid Mattson: Can I follow up on that? So your Association of Muslim Chaplains aspires to eventually be able to hold your members to the Code of Conduct. So for example, if someone makes a specific complaint, there’s a complaints process, they make a complaint to you, and we can talk more about what that process would look like in terms of investigation and other things. But what if this scenario happened where someone didn’t make an explicit complaint, but they told you that this had happened. That they had visited the Chaplain and they talked to them, for example, about feeling very sad maybe feeling depressed. They may have used those words or not. But indicated that they were finding it very hard to function. And what if that person said you know, “My mom or my parent or someone has suggested that I see a therapist or a mental health counselor. What do you think?” And that chaplain says, “No, you don’t. You don’t need that. You just need to, you know, you really need tawwakul. You need to trust in Allah. And if you increase your du’a, you’ll be better.” So what if one of the members of the Association of Muslim Chaplains is told that story, but the person doesn’t explicitly make a complaint, they’re just relaying what happened to them. Do you think you will organize yourselves to the point where you would be required to make that report to the committee that deals with violations of the Code of Conduct. So I guess what I’m asking, is there going to be a kind of mandated reporting requirement where you would be required to report other chaplains who are members of your organization? I mean, obviously you don’t have the jurisdiction over those who aren’t members of the Association of Muslim Chaplain.
[00:28:42] Jaye Starr: Lauren, can you go first?
[00:28:43] Lauren Schreiber: I can. I have so many feelings about this because a lot of the language that’s presented is very punitive and very like, legalistic from like, a persecution perspective and point of view. And for me, that’s so difficult to grapple with because although we do want to hold people accountable to hold Chaplains accountable for supporting people and walking with them in an ethical way, punishing them or reaching out to a mandated reporter requirement that then requires me to report my colleague, which then triggers an investigation, which then triggers this. I think in some ways it’s I’d like to see us be able to build our policy out and our process out so that we can hold people and give them room to make mistakes and ways to support them and help them grow from where they. In a place that’s rooted with some compassion.
[00:29:33] So do I think that there should be a mandated reporting clause in the Code? My hope is that we can frame that in some way where we’re a learning community and part of what we want is to encourage each other to do well and to represent the profession in the best way possible. And that when something happens that perhaps causes a client harm, that we have the chance to reflect on that in community and to support each other with making different decisions next time. This the CPE method of action, reflection, new action. We have to be able to create some space in our professional institution where we can compassionately support people to make different choices. There will be instances when a decision or an interaction with somebody that they’re providing pastoral care to could cause big harm. And there’s other ways I think that we can perhaps engage with that.
[00:30:25] Dr. Ingrid Mattson: So two follow-ups on that. One is, does this mean that you would have to rank or sort of rank violations of the Code of Conduct by degrees of harm? So that some things would necessarily mean would trigger an investigation or a suspension. But the other question I have isn’t the methodology you’re talking about, doesn’t that prioritize the welfare, the status, the interest of the chaplain over the person who’s being served?
[00:31:01] Lauren Schreiber: No I’m wrestling with this. I do think that there are some violations that happen that are more significant than others. And so in some way, whether or not we codify it in the Code in writing and like here’s level one, level two, level three, which is oftentimes how punitive language turns out where “This is the violation, this is the accompanying punishment for that violation.” I do think that there is a ranking that happens in terms of severity, and also it depends on what the person harmed is asking for and what needs to happen for the harm to be repaired. I’m a huge fan and student and I’m really interested in restorative practices and I think that there’s a lot of room in there to both hold the person that causes harm and the person harmed and to hold them both in the process, in community, in a way that can help meet their, help them articulate what their needs and requests are and help meet those needs.
[00:31:56] This also depends on is the, was this type of harm in the scenario mentioned, the type of harm came as an aside story, it wasn’t that the client for the person that was being counseled wasn’t the direct report to say, “Hey, this caused me harm. I’m coming to you. Here’s what I need to have happen.” This was like a more, like a broader, like, “I heard this story told and I’m concerned and want to do an intervention.” in that case, depending on the severity, maybe part of what an answer could look like would be reaching out to that individual. Perhaps that window of opportunity has closed. And what we can do in that regard is still hold work to hold the practitioner accountable, even if we’re not able to get the person harmed involved. But I do believe that, making sure that we’re not just prioritizing the Chaplains and giving them infinite grace and making tons of 70 excuses for the Chaplains in their position. I definitely think we have to be able to toe the line of like, no, sometimes we really can cause harm and need to be held accountable, both by the people we harm and each other. So I’m hoping we can toe that line.
[00:32:58] Joshua Salaam: What I’ll add is, first I wanna identify the beauty of diversity of thought. Right, because Lauren just kind of put it out there where she comes from, you know, a strong restorative justice. She lives it, she’s trained in it. We also have other people in our organization that maybe come from a more of zero tolerance. There’s no way that we can, you know, allow that whatsoever in any situation. Right? So we have all these people alhumdullilah talking with each other and we debate and we argue ourselves to try to come up with something that we feel is right. So it’s not, our organization isn’t just like one way of thinking. I think we have a very diverse group of people who kind of massage this, and I think Lauren has assembled a team of people who are diverse in their thought to help her with say, what’s the ethical question. So that’s what I wanted to start with. I think that another, for me, bird’s eye view approach is, at least for my own reading of the Qur’an, what I get is that this is how it’s supposed to be. This is like Allah‘s design. “Y’all not gonna all agree. In fact, if I wanted you to all agree, I would’ve created you that way.” Right? “So now how are you gonna sort this out before I call you back to meet with me? And then I will judge on your process, like, how sincere were you with the process?”
[00:34:10] But trying to figure out like, was that right? Was that wrong? You know, that is a never ending process that we are gonna constantly be navigating as human beings. I just think that’s how Allah designed it to see how we do it. So somebody that thinks that just you’re gonna come up with a policy and it fixes everything. I don’t even think that’s how it’s supposed to be designed. And I think that, again, for me, accountability is huge. What does that look like? You know, Allah knows best. But we do have to hold people accountable. And so in that scenario that you brought Dr. Mattson of the person who said that, my specific answer would be like, if that person doesn’t, okay, they don’t wanna file an official complaint and they don’t gimme permission to go and speak to that person directly. Because sometimes the person feels like, if you say it, there’s nobody else, they’re gonna know that it’s me.”
[00:34:54] And you know, so if they don’t give me any leeway to speak to that person directly. Then what I would do, again, this is, I’m not speaking like this is part of the ethics thing, just answering your question, is take what I understand to be a prophetic model. That’s when you make a general announcement, you know, at the next general board meeting, you send a newsletter like, “Hey chaplains, you know, this, just a reminder that this is our Code of Conduct, maybe we might even require every member, you know, depending how it egregious it is, we’ll require every member to go through, you know, some type of training. We can be creative with it, but the first part is to honor the person who’s been harmed. If they don’t want you doing something, you know, we’re not in a position legally with the state or anything that we have that mandatory saying that we’re gonna do it even if that’s not what you wanted us to do. Right. And two, holding each other accountable. Holding each other accountable. We’re still figuring out what that looks like to create a culture of accountability, right? That, that us as Chaplains, as part of AMC, how do we create a culture where we don’t have to wait for the president or some board member to contact you, that if I see something, I experience something, I can call you up as a fellow Chaplain and say, “Hey, I wanted to ask you about something that you said yesterday, or that I saw, or that I read in an article about you.” You know, how can we create that and then work it up the chain that’s gonna take, you know, probably a while of conversations like this and policy and mistakes and successes, but we do wanna create a culture that we can hold each other accountable in a beautiful way that Lauren is described.
[00:36:19] Jaye Starr: Dr. Mattson in the Hurma Project interview with Dr. Rania Awaad, she defines the psychological term, and I’m forgetting the name of it but I- the way it sort of holds in my head is a kind of like guilt by association. And so when you have a handful of shuyukh who perpetrate a crime, say for example, secret marriages, this has been prevalent within the community, but it takes very few for the groups at large to sort of be tarnished by it, even when it wasn’t occurring within their community at all. And I think that for chaplaincy, there’s a sort of similar, because so many people are unfamiliar, it seems particularly important now to ensure that chaplains are coming in align with right practice. Because a few chaplains making mistakes and mistakes is maybe a generous word. Perpetrating harm against the community or an individual will make it harder for our entire profession to provide the type of care that I think we are, we are called upon to provide. That we try to, we struggle and strive to provide.
[00:37:23] Dr. Ingrid Mattson: Yeah, so there’s that trust that needs to be built up in the people who are presenting themselves as Chaplains in the Association. And as we know, trust is so fragile, it takes a long time to build up and it like so many good things, it’s can be destroyed quickly. Doesn’t mean it can’t, there can’t be restoration. And we do see, another thing that Dr. Rania talks about is post-traumatic growth, for example, so that when there has been a violation, when there’s been harm, when there’s been a violation of trust, that if the community comes in afterwards and really provides support to those who have been harmed, in fact, everyone can grow out of that. So it seems that there’s you know, it’s really beautiful to see all of the pieces that you’re looking at as you reflect on this on your values and ideals and the Code of Conduct.
[00:38:14] Jaye Starr: Yeah. Sister Shazeeda Khan, who’s the president of the Muslim Endorsement Council, has raised I think a really important question. If, within AMC, there’s a close knit feeling of subha community, of family, of companionship among us. Does that compromise our ability to hold one another accountable? And I think that we’re still in a process of discernment around that. The Muslim Endorsement Council, MEC’s position has long been that those who are currently working in the field of Chaplaincy should not be endorsing incoming Chaplains due to a conflict of interests and a feeling that their friendships, their relationships with each other as peers may influence their decision making process.
[00:38:57] And I think a similar question is raised for AMC that we need to discern and be cautious around that as we have these friendships with people within the membership family. We are also mindful of how we still enact accountability and be able to recognize where there may be places that we cannot do that and need to bring in additional support or to work in collaboration with other organizations.
[00:39:18] Mihad Fahmy: That actually ties into something that we wanted to touch upon, and that’s how complaints would be dealt with. I mean, you know, given the close knit community that you just described, once a complaint is brought forward, would it be investigated by, a subcommittee of Chaplains or a panel of individuals within the Association. Does that, is that something that you envision or do you envision bringing in external professionals to, to conduct that process?
[00:39:52] Lauren Schreiber: Yeah, that’s a great question. One of the working groups that came out of our session in Chicago that Dr. Mattson had mentioned was specifically focused on process. And this is definitely something that we were holding and keeping in mind and discussing a lot about, because there’s two things that we wanna hold I think. One is the power of relationships to help support. And transform people and to hold people accountable. The other is this existence of sometimes this is going to be beyond our ability to handle or will be a conflict of interest. So one of the things I’m thinking will happen with our, where we move with this process will be that, depending on the type of complaint, we’ll determine whether or not we need to have an outside person to help navigate next processes with the complainant. And we’ll also determine do we need to hire an outside investigator or work with an outside investigator?
[00:40:47] One of the challenges that’s really big in this work is that when a grievance comes in order to hold it and give it the full attention and care that it needs, it takes a lot of time and energy. And so it could literally be its own whole full-time job. And this just isn’t as a fully volunteer run organization at this moment, the weight of this is really big. To be able to do justice by our members, to do justice by the people who are being harmed, but to also go about it in a way that is working for the whole. And so one of the things that I’m a proponent of and will be encouraging us to think about is how can we train our own members internally on the committee to uphold confidentiality processes, so really limiting the number of people who know who this, who the complainant is really trying to protect their identity as much as possible while still being able to workshop the content of what’s happening in council with other people on the mem- within the membership body, but then also as having a clear process for what are those things that need to immediately go to somebody else. If it’s somebody that’s on the ethics committee, for example, if it’s a board member that immediately triggers this needs to happen outside of our organization, we cannot handle this. But I’m hopeful that there will be some things, for example, a grievance member between member, if there was harm between members, that might be something that we as a community could be trained to support and to make recommendations and to help find different solutions and avenues for healing internally. So I think it’s a both-and. It’s not like one or the other.
[EXIT MELODY FADES OUT]
[00:42:18] Mihad Fahmy: The Association of Muslim Chaplains was launched in 2011, and now has over 230 members who work in various fields, including hospitals, universities, prisons, the military, and in our communities. The role of a Muslim Chaplain remains unfamiliar to many of us and is sometimes misunderstood. We heard that while the attributes and skills of a Muslim Chaplain may overlap to an extent with those held by Imams and counselors, the role of Muslim Chaplain is actually quite unique and distinct from both. A Muslim Chaplain focuses on the emotional and spiritual wellbeing of the student, inmate, patient, or community member in a way that is relationship-based. He or she also serves as a bridge between the Imam or religious teacher who conveys Islamic knowledge and the receiver of such knowledge, helping her or him reflect upon, grapple with, and absorb the message being relayed. The Association of Muslim Chaplains is currently working on developing its Code of Conduct, a shift from its previous Code of Ethics. Our conversation illustrated that the process of doing so is not as simple as putting pen to paper. Nor is a Code of Conduct the complete answer to creating a culture of accountability.
[00:43:54] The women and men who serve as Muslim Chaplains necessarily approach this complex issue of accountability and self-regulation through various lenses. For example, while some Chaplains may come from a strong restorative justice practice, others maintain the need to uphold a policy of zero tolerance when it comes to Code violations. What was so refreshing about this conversation, however, is that this diversity and approach was neither minimized nor shied away from. Rather, there is a real palpable level of comfort in disagreeing with one another and knowing that in time, a place of resolution will be arrived at. And perhaps this stems from the understanding and certainty that we all are going to be called by Allah to account regarding how such differences were worked out and worked through amongst ourselves.
[00:44:56] In the next episode of the Hurma Project Podcast, we continue our conversation with Brother Joshua, Sister Lauren and Sister Jaye. We begin to unpack some scenarios as a way of exploring how the proposed Code of Conduct and complaints process may be applied, and we also talk about how women and men have developed the profession of Muslim chaplaincy together as peers.
[00:45:21] We hope you will join us. We want to thank you for listening to this episode and learning along with us. We hope you have benefited from this and past episodes, and that you will help us in reaching a broader audience. You can do so by subscribing to the podcast on your favorite podcast platform, leaving us a rating or a review, and telling a friend, family member, or colleague about the Hurma Project podcast. We would like to thank our Funders, Pillars Fund, and the Waraich Family Foundation, as well as the El Hibri Foundation for supporting the work of the Hurma Project. This episode was produced by Carlay Ream-Neal, with additional research assistance provided by Maram Albakri and Maysa Haque. We look forward to continuing our conversation with each of you. Until then, asalaamu alaykum.
[EXIT MELODY FADES OUT]