Season 2. Episode 7: AMC Chaplains: Holding Ourselves Accountable, Part Two

Season 2. Episode 7: AMC Chaplains: Holding Ourselves Accountable, Part Two

A continuation of our conversation with Chaplains Jaye Starr, Lauren Schreiber and Joshua Salaam of the Association of Muslim Chaplains about how they developed a Code of Conduct for their professional association, and their commitment to finding effective and compassionate means to accountability.

Jaye Starr

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.

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Lauren Schreiber

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

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 Two


The following transcript has been edited for fluency.




[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. Hurma is an Islamic legal term signifying the divinely granted 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 those who are present in Muslim spaces.

[00:01:03] Today we continue our conversation 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 of Muslim Chaplains about their development of their Code of Conduct and their efforts to develop a model of accountability that is effective and rooted in Islamic norms. We have posted biographical information and relevant links for each of our guests on the Hurma Project website, 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. More information about the association can be found on their website:



[00:02:22] Mihad Fahmy: So one of the issues that is flagged in the revised or the draft Code, let’s call it a working document, that you’re all you all are working through is something that has come up actually repeatedly on many of the interviews that we’ve conducted for the Hurma Project Podcast. And that is relationships between those who hold authority and those that they serve. So I’m just going to read one of the statements in the draft Code and we can talk about it. It says that “members shall not engage in consensual or non-consensual sexual contact, make comments or marriage proposals with the persons they currently supervise or counsel, or have counseled in at least the previous six months.” So could you explain why consensual relationships or a proposal for marriage, assuming that it’s within the scope and bounds of what is permissible in Islam, why that would be considered a violation of the Code? And then we can talk a little bit about the time limit that you’ve proposed to be attached to it. So start with that.


[00:03:38] Joshua Salaam: May I begin? I’m a person of analogies, that’s just how I- my brain thinks and two that come forward is what’s his name- Charles Barkley. He’s a famous basketball player. Used to be a famous basketball player and he used to get into a lot of trouble, beat people up, throw ’em through the window, and you know, at bars, and so it was all over the media and he got on camera one time and said, “I am not a role model. You need to raise your own children. You know, don’t be putting that on me, that they’re doing stuff.” And it was a big controversy about it. And I think the important thing is knowing who you are when you don’t see yourself as that, right? So a lot of times chaplains and religious leaders or others may not see themselves as anything special. “I’m just an average person. A lot of the people I serve know more than- religious knowledge than me.” You know, things like that. But stepping back and being fully aware of how people see you is a huge step. And I think what you just read is us trying to get at that look, people are coming to you and they see you in a certain way. This is a policy that helps you realize that that, that is not the best time for you to be making propositions because there’s a, there’s some power dynamics, there’s some spiritual abuse that can happen, and so you need to leave all of that until like six months after.

You know, don’t try to drop nuggets three months out, like again, in a crowd, we’re just gonna throw the fishing net out. We’re gonna come back and get the fish. No, don’t try to find loopholes but leave some space between a time that you were actively serving someone before you express interest. Because in, in that time, you may not realize- in your head you’re just an average person, but oftentimes the other people see you as something very different and in a very special light. And so it, it could create harm trying to do that.


[00:05:23] Mihad Fahmy: Jaye or Lauren?


[00:05:24] Jaye Starr: I think what I would add to that is that it’s really critically important that chaplains understand that when they are in a position of authority, which they are with not only their congregants, but also potentially further a field, depending on how they’re presented and understood in the community, that there actually can’t be consent, that a person cannot come into conversation particularly around something like marriage as- it’s not an equal field. And so while it may appear from the outside, “Oh, it’s consenting, you know, she said, or he said yes,” but in fact that person doesn’t have that ability to consent. And this is where it gets really difficult. And it can sound a bit patronizing to say that somebody doesn’t have that when they genuinely believe that they do. And I’ve heard some people make the case like this is why it’s really important for somebody, for a woman to have a wali to be a guardian in that process. But the challenges is that guardian can still put that chaplain in a place of authority that also prevents clarity around that. We have six months in our code. That’s a somewhat arbitrary date. I’m not sure where that came from. I believe in social work professions it’s a year. I believe FACE has written in their Code of the Conduct that it should actually be in perpetuity. So, if a chaplain had, or an imam had had a counseling relationship with somebody, there could never be marriage discussed at any point in the future. I think that the answer is probably somewhere in the middle for me personally, but it’s certainly something that we’re still in discernment around, and it, but I think the most important thing is that the chaplains understand that consent when there is authority is not actually consent. It’s a perception of consent.


[00:06:57] Mihad Fahmy: And this isn’t new to the Code. Is that right? Or is this a new piece that you’ve added?


[00:07:02] Lauren Schreiber: Yeah, in 2020 we’d actually done a membership survey of the Code to get feedback from members. And this particular relationship clause was one that our members identified as something that they’d like to workshop and to, to work around it, something that they wanted up for revision. I’m not it’s unclear from the survey data in which way they’d like it to be revised, but it’s something that we’re keeping in mind as we move forward with the Code for sure.


[00:07:27] Mihad Fahmy: Hmm. So we don’t have, you don’t have a sense of what it is that they wanted to develop, work, change?


[00:07:36] Lauren Schreiber: I think that based on the feedback we initially got, people had just sort of said, “Hey, we wanna re- we want revision on this, we want, we want more feedback.” And I, my guess is some of it is related to the timeframe that Jaye had mentioned of this, like how, where’d you come up with six months? And perhaps just more clarity of language there. But that’s one of the great things about having a committee of people to work on this, is that our language, the committee that working on language is gonna have a chance to troubleshoot this and then share it back with membership to say, “Hey, did we miss the mark here, or did we get it right? Is this better?” So I’m hopeful that the, that they’ll be able to move it in a way that’s helpful for folks.


[00:08:10] Dr. Ingrid Mattson: I remember being in the on a panel listening to a panel at the AMC annual meeting, I think it was in that year, maybe only two or three years ago, and Dr. Hamada Hamid, he raised this issue of six months. And said that coming from, you know, as a mental health professional, that I think they tend to look at it a little differently, and sometimes they actually require a third party to assess if the parties can now really enter into a kind of equal commitment to each other. Or if the one person is still too dependent, has a kind of dependency or an idealism about that person who was providing them with care.


[00:08:59] Lauren Schreiber: We’re taking notes. Dr. Mattson.


[00:09:00] Dr. Ingrid Mattson: [laughs]


[00:09:02] Joshua Salaam: I would also add just, I’m sure we all know, but just to spell it out, that it’s also the other way, like I think the conversation’s kind of been if the chaplain was interested in one, but sometimes somebody could be aggressively showing interest in a chaplain. Like, “Oh, I just love, you know, how you work with the community or the way you counsel, or you just seem like a good person,” and they could be tenacious about it. This gives the chaplain him or her some guidance, and like, “I’m sorry, that’s not possible in this capacity,” you know, even though it wasn’t for me. This person seems to really want it, but just kind of giving them some protection, at least to be able to lean on the policy. Like, yeah, AMC’s got this Code of Conduct.


[00:09:43] Jaye Starr: The other thing that comes up with that, Joshua, I think is important to hold, is that when a chaplain does not have sound self care practices, when they are not in a good position, the flattery that can come their way, the compliments that can come their way from a care seeker can be really dangerous. We say, you know, if a chaplain finds that they are really looking forward to a counseling session with somebody, or they’re really not looking forward to a counseling session with somebody. It’s time to go back and take track of where your heart is and what’s going on there, and the importance of having a supervisor that you’re in relationship, so that you can go to them and be like, “Whoa, you know, I was like really looking forward to this counseling session I was having, and I think it’s bringing up some things,” and then to be able to say, “I cannot continue in this relationship with you,” and to do it appropriately and to have a team to be able to work with around that. And I think of Imam al-Ghazali’s beautiful teaching that of the importance of polishing the dust off of our heart so that it can be a mirror to reflect God into this world. And that if we don’t do the time to polish, we can make so many mistakes. It’s a really integral part of being a chaplain.


[00:10:56] Mihad Fahmy: And what about that supervision and that peer support? Is there anything in the Code or elsewhere that requires a chaplain to have that supervisory relationship or to maintain some type of peer relationship or support that would kind of serve as a sounding board or many of the- That’s come up in many of your comments, so I’m just wondering if that’s been codified at all or formalized.


[00:11:23] Joshua Salaam: I don’t think so. But I do think what we hope to do is we have each of those five groups that I outlined earlier has what we call a “cohort” and they provide “huddles” and they get together and they talk with each other, and sometimes they bring in outside people to discuss. And we have a professional development person that is trying to work with each one of those groups. I’m hoping that. Over time, we would have something that every chaplain has to go to a certain amount of those, like to keep their membership with AMC. There’s this concept like ongoing education that we build into the organization that at least you’re checking in with us and the policies and the education of what it is to be a chaplain. Again, because we are forgetful creatures. That remembrance, I hope, will become part of what we do. So I don’t think it’s there yet, but I do think we plan to grow there.


[00:12:14] Lauren Schreiber: It’s also interesting because supervision is such a big part of chaplaincy training. Like the, one of the big benefits of being in a Clinical Pastoral Education program is that you get to peer- peer feedback on your work and you get supervision. And so I think the other kind of thing that’s interesting in addition to what Joshua had mentioned is that we have the kind of ability within our field to say, “Hey, what do we recommend so that we can, could be most accountable, like who has good best practices within the field, and can we model that and duplicate it in other places when it comes to supervision?” When in a community-based setting. The only way that, when- every time I start a session, I let them know who my supervisors are, like I mention them by name, so that the person I’m counseling and talking to knows who to talk to, and that I’m not just out here by myself. And I mentioned the AMC Code, that I’m an AMC member and that I’m a accountable to this group as well. And so I think that there’s room to grow within the field when it comes to, how can we also define what supervision should look like in- especially spaces like communities that are a little, that don’t have necessarily the same structure that a hospital or a university or a prison may have. There’s some flexibility for us to define what that standard should be in the field, and I’m really excited about that.


[00:13:32] Dr. Ingrid Mattson: It sounds to me that, you know, I wonder if people hearing about the Association of Muslim Chaplains and the Code of Conduct and being held accountable to these standards, you know, they might think, “Wow. Like you’re really tying yourself to, to be accountable to so many other people and limiting yourself in terms of your relationships with those whom you serve.” So they might look at it as a way of limiting yourself and wondering, you know, why would a chaplain want to join AMC? But it sounds to me the way you’re speaking about it is that you all find that many of these expectations in the Code are protective of yourselves, are beneficial to you as chaplains. And that by being in this kind of community, you’re finding opportunities to grow and learn as well. So what- could any of you speak? Is that true? Is my impression correct?


[00:14:36] Jaye Starr: I think because chaplaincy is not very well understood in the Muslim community, people sometimes don’t realize the mental load that a chaplain carries when they’re in conversations with people. We cannot chaplain our friends. Part of the role of the chaplain is the intimate stranger. Who can walk into a setting and serve. And in a college campus that doesn’t necessarily look like that. That’s very true for the hospital setting, I realize that. Or the corrections setting where you are in sort of long-term relationship, but you are a step removed, always, in that position of authority. But more the boundaries of that. And that impacts how chaplains go about developing friendships and where we draw those boundaries. And I think many are still learning how to do that. I know for myself, when I find friendship conversations sort of veering in the direction of chaplaincy, I will intentionally redirect them. If I’ve been listening to a person for an hour, that’s a little bit different.


[00:15:37] And I think where I was going with this is sort of, AMC provides an important space where we can be friends in a deeper sense than sometimes we can be within our communities because we are separated from our communities by this role that we fulfill. And even if we’re not a chaplain at the mosque, when we walk into the mosque, if people know that we’re a chaplain in another institution, there’s a lot of assumptions that go with that, and it can be exhausting and lonely and isolating. And so the importance then of having fellow chaplains to be in friendship with becomes really important. And I think that’s also similarly felt. I know many of our chaplains are involved with interfaith clergy groups because, you know, our Christian and our Jewish peers, whether they’re in a congregation or in a chaplaincy role, have a similar isolation. And so it, it allows us to come together around that. That can be important.


[00:16:25] Dr. Ingrid Mattson: Muslim chaplaincy in the United States, in North America, has always been inclusive of men and women as far as I know. So even the very early chaplains that I knew, primarily African American Muslims, often volunteers going into the prison systems, correctional systems. Many of the people they served, I mean all of them emeshed in an extremely racist system, but you know, going there to provide support and care and love to people in their community who are incarcerated. There’ve always been men and women doing this work. And Muslim men and women have developed this profession and practices together. I’m sure some of you are aware of other associations or councils or groups of Muslim religious professionals, for example, councils of imams or councils of scholars. And in most cases those are all men, Muslim men. I mean, you, you may or may not know much about how they operate or the dynamics in those organizations, but are you able to reflect at all on what you think it means for this particular Muslim religious professional of chaplaincy, it being a gender inclusive profession, and AMC being an organization that is, you know, a fellowship of Muslim men and women peers together?


[00:18:00] Lauren Schreiber: I think one of the, the like foundational text stories that really got me excited about the field of chaplaincy was when I was in class and my professor, Dr. Bilal Ansari had said, “You know, Khadija may Allah be well pleased with her, was the first chaplain in some ways,” and tells the story about how she received our beloved Prophet peace be upon him when he was in distress after receiving revelation at first. We all know this story, and I remember just this joy of being like, “Oh my goodness. There’s space. There has always been space for women to help shape and build communities to help serve and provide for each other,” and the idea of AMC and chapl- the field of chaplaincy being a place where Muslims can be coming together, both men and women to help shape, approaches and shape this caregiving field is super exciting to me and it’s one of the reasons why I went into chaplaincy in the first place is because there’s a space for me here and there’s a space for my ideas and there’s a space for other people’s ideas and we’re able to work together to really serve the whole community. Like what how, how is, how are we able to serve the full needs of the Muslim community when the Muslim community isn’t fully represented in those doing the serving? In many ways, I think that having gender balance and inclusion in AMC is such a really wonderful blessing and an exciting place to be working.


[00:19:28] Dr. Ingrid Mattson: I haven’t seen other Muslim organizations of religious professionals, Muslim religious professionals, work on a Code of Conduct like this, hold themselves accountable, be so mindful of power relations. Do you think that, you know, you have that perspective because you’ve been trained in chaplaincy as a professional, as a profession that is a distinct established field with certain protocols, and/or do you think that having equal representation of men and women has in any way affected your awareness of the importance of these dynamics?


[00:20:10] Joshua Salaam: I feel like your statement just there bridges them together. Because when you have a council of imams and it’s 20 to 50 men, it comes from a good place of, “Hey, we’re all imams, let’s come together and let’s talk and about what we’re gonna do in the community. When’s Eid gonna be, what problems are you going- You know, what’s going with us, we’re one ummah.” It comes from a good place. But as I said earlier about knowing, seeing it from somebody else’s perspective, I think it’s important to see that you are deficient when you have all men. Just knowing it that you’re, even if you don’t wanna call it deficient, we’re obviously gonna be limited in our view, right? If you’re all white, if you’re all black, if you’re all tall, if you’re all short and you come together, your mindset, your perspectives is limited because you don’t have other people in there giving you different perspectives. I would not have thought about it until you just asked a question because I’m just in it. I’m swimming in this ocean of chaplains and Jaye’s basically the one that trained me, you know, when I came on as president, and you know, I’m just in it as this. But now when you ask the question and I can step back, I would say a hundred percent. I, I would think so, that what we’re doing has a lot to do with the female influence. I was reflecting on it as you were talking. Sometimes men think like, “Oh, what if that happens? We’ll just do this. You know, they’re not gonna do that.” a woman sometimes has to think through, you know, more like, “Okay, well I’m not gonna confront that person. We need to have something in place. How, how’s it gonna happen, what we’re gonna do,” and without me like really reflecting on it until just now, I think that has been a huge reason why we’re being more thoughtful, more meaningful, addressing this in this way. So, you know, I would say, thanks for the question, but I would have to say yes, I absolutely think that.


[00:22:01] Jaye Starr: I really think Allah subhana wa ta’ala has made us as partners in this work that we both bring, that men and women and individuals within each of those groups bring really important pieces to the table. And I can think of multiple occasions where an AMC member has either put out a question within one of our, within one of our sort of chat groups or they’ve called me directly and they’ve asked a question. And because I’ve been able to bring a different gendered experience into it, we’re able to understand the issue differently and that that same thing happens for me going the other direction, where layers kind of get peeled back just at a very, very basic level. You know, when people first come into chaplaincy, oftentimes the reason that they, that people come in is because they love Islam and they want to spend their whole life doing Islam and have that be the source of their of their income, and that’s beautiful. It can also mean that sometimes wading into chaplaincy is difficult because you’re asked to hold space with people of very different understandings of what Islam is. And so one example of this is when women take issue with being told to go to the back of the masjid in America. We have a history around people being told to go to the back and it’s heavy. It’s the history of racism in this country when black people are told to go to the back, that influences how we understand things. And so if people have grown up with a narrative that this is a Western feminist innovation, and they’ve been trained to just route women to being at peace with where they are. They’re not necessarily able to hold space and hear the hurt that that has caused for women, which isn’t saying that they need to change the arrangement, but to be able to hold that space and to honor that hurt can go a long way towards healing. And I think just for men and women, to be able to have that conversation in the classroom or in a professional association to hear that really helps to open our hearts to better understanding the suffering of the people who who come to us for care.


[00:23:59] Lauren Schreiber: Hmm, that was so beautiful, Jaye. The one piece that I’ll add is that in our ethics work, there- having women be present, having women involved in the ethics work, we’re able to bring in narratives and like help encourage the group to think about, who do we know who’s been impacted by spiritual abuse or has been harmed by someone in leadership. And this prompting that may be shared or encouraged by women that are on the committee, everybody has a story or knows somebody who’s had, there’s a situation or a circumstance, including the men, whether that was, oftentimes it does have to do with gender. And so being able to bring forward and to bring this question up, we have men who say, “Yeah, you know, my, my sister experienced this,” or “I know what- I know somebody that I’m connected to. How can we. How can we work with this situation so that we can keep harm from happening?” I think having both men and women there together with our ideas coming forward is really one of the ways that we’re gonna get an ethics process and an ethics language that will serve the whole ummah and not just one segment of it and won’t just uphold leadership and won’t just uphold the positions of power. That it really can be something that, that everybody has access to.


[00:25:17] Dr. Ingrid Mattson: Well, thank you for your reflections on that question, that is a little bit different than the focus of our talk today. But it really strikes me that the way you work with each other, way you bounce ideas off each other, learn from each other, even in the moment is- It’s such an example for all of us. We’re always in the middle of becoming inshallah, better. Realizing our capacities, whether that is as individuals or as groups, and just to continue to be able to have that kind of openness leads to so many possibilities and we’re really excited about seeing what will come from the Association of Muslim Chaplains in terms of ideals and principles and values and processes as well. And I think we’ve learned a lot today just hearing how you’re committed to being in conversation with each other and community with each other and open to just continually learning and growing because certainly one of the things that we’ve learned in the number of years that Mihad and I have been working on this, is that there are a lot of open questions. Society’s changing all the time. Our institutions are changing our challenges, new challenges keep emerging, and we certainly need a lot of flexibility. And I think we’re only going to be able to progress if we are committed to community and listening to each other. So thank you so much for that conversation.

[00:26:50] Mihad, is there an issue or a question you’d like to add?


[00:26:54] Mihad Fahmy: Yeah, I wanted to talk about some professions that I’ve been thinking about. So the one that comes to mind is teachers. So educators, typically, their conduct outside of school, let’s say if they’re a school teacher or a principal, can have an impact on. Their status as a teacher or their professional certification. Here in Canada there was a case that established these kinds of principles where a teacher engaged in hate speech outside of the school that he taught in and was disciplined for it. So that’s an extreme example, right. But in reading the Code, I wondered whether this is an issue that you’re thinking about and working through? Is whether or not a chaplain’s personal conduct to be something that somebody could complain about? Like where do you draw the line between personal and professionals? Is this something that you’re having discussions about, what could you share at this point?


[00:28:02] Joshua Salaam: Jaye, your smile was the biggest. You, you go first.


[00:28:06] Jaye Starr: Oh, so many discussions. And I think a related area is, where is it appropriate for AMC, where and when is it appropriate for AMC to pursue the investigation versus where and when is it appropriate to refer to the institution where somebody works and what are the ramifications of having that relationship. And some on our committee argue there should be no contact with the employer. Before, during, or after to hold space for that. But there are things that would be an issue for AMC that would not be an issue for their employer. So, for example, if one of our members is involved in a romantic relationship with intimacy, that does not involve marriage, say it’s a campus chaplain and it’s nothing to do with their student body. It’s, you know, then they’re, as far as the campus is concerned, they’re consenting adults in a romantic relationship and that’s their own business and that has nothing to do with their job. However, I think, and I think partly we’re still trying to discern this is what issues would that present for AMC? I mean, we know some of the issues obviously, right? These two individuals are not married. But the question of where is the boundary of what happens in a person’s private life versus in the purview of a professional association. And there’s one, is our accountability as a group to Allah subhana wa ta’ala, to, to maintaining that. But there’s also then some legal liability questions that arise for us around defamation and other things that are complicated. And so I think we’re still trying to discern where those lines are and also being aware of how things would impact one’s chaplaincy services.

[00:29:40] Dr. Ingrid Mattson: I mean, placing someone within a community practice, that’s where endorsement comes in, right? So that would mean that to be a member of AMC, maybe someone needs to be endorsed by a particular faith community, and so then it would be up to that faith community to withdraw an endorsement if the person violated their Codes. But I know that you don’t have an endorsement section for your membership.


[00:30:06] Jaye Starr: Is it possible to raise two- one issue about membership, being member directed and one about endorsement? So AMC is a professional association, but we recognize that people without professional training are being hired as chaplains, both by non-Muslim institutions and by Muslim institutions alike. And there’s problematics on both ends of those. There are also some mashallah, they’re incredible, incredible individuals with the best of intention, who are really striving to do the best of work and may God reward them for it and lift the obstacles for them in being able to further their education. We, as a professional association, have made the decision to offer membership to those who are institutionally recognized as chaplains. So for example, they are at a hospital recognized as a chaplain or a university recognized as a chaplain. And to those who have, and or to those who have professional chaplaincy training or are currently students, and we define that professional chaplaincy training as two parts, both Masters of Divinity or equivalency with a, generally with a chaplaincy focus is what we’re looking for, though we’re a little bit broad on that and at least a unit of Clinical Pastoral Education. We’ve recently made a division within our membership to actually have a professional category and a lay category, and part of that is because we wanna be able to better identify what are the additional training needs that our membership has. And the previous membership categories didn’t allow us to see that as well. So now we can, we’re able to look and say, “Okay, we have X number of lay chaplains,” who may have some other really beautiful complimentary skill sets that they’re drawing from. What do we need to help to get them where they need to be in terms of clinical skills? And then the other part of it is for our membership at large, ensuring that they have sufficient foundation in Islamic Sciences foundation. And I’m excited about the work that we’re starting to do now with our education institution members, which are the accredited graduate programs, training Muslim chaplains to be thinking about, where are the limitations in what they can and can’t provide, and where do we need the Muslim community to compliment the academic portion of chaplaincy training with more of these traditional sciences? And then making that accessible to ensure that our chaplains have that.

So I wanna hold that up because, if we think about AMC as being a member led or a member driven organization, I think there’s some risks with that, because we have two very different groups and it’s not, we can’t really define them as different groups, but who have different goals and hopes for the organization and understanding of what chaplaincy is. It’s can be really difficult when we come in to have a conversation around chaplaincy like people have gotten hired, but who haven’t had that- they just have a totally different language and frame of reference for the work that they’re doing, to try to kind of get us on a similar page. So that’s one thing that I would raise up. And then the other issue I wanna touch on is the requirement of endorsement. And I think many of our listeners might not be aware of what endorsement is. So for certain chaplaincy jobs, there’s a requirement due to particularly the separation of church and state constitutionally, that religious groups be responsible for identifying who is qualified to be a religious representative in an institution. This is particularly true in corrections chaplaincy settings, and in military chaplaincy settings. We see it manifest in other ways that I can talk about in a moment, with regards to other area. Many masajid are willing to give an individual a letter saying that they will endorse them to be a representative, and there are institutions that will accept that.

[00:33:32] There are other institutions that require endorsement specifically from a recognized endorsement agency. There are several serving the American Muslim community at this point, the Muslim Endorsement Council of Connecticut, the Islamic Society of North America, Muslims for Progressive Values, and the American Muslim Veterans Association. California and New York have their own endorsement agencies that are specific to their states, and they may, there may be others out there, but that’s sort of largest national ones that I’m aware of. When a chaplain wants to seek endorsement, they go to those agencies and they are requested to essentially prove their, or document both their personal and professional practice as a Muslim and their skill set around competencies. Muslim Endorsement Council, for example, has identified five areas of competency. They’re looking for ability, a person’s ability, not just to know the Qur’an and sunnah, but to be able to bring them into their work. To have that contextual capacity, for example, is one of those areas. If you are thinking, if you are involved with hiring a Muslim chaplain in any way, shape, or form, please require your endorsement from an endorsing agency. It means that there’s somebody who understands what chaplaincy is and who knows the foundation that a Muslim should have to be serving in that role.

[00:34:48] And I think that there’s room for growth in the way that the endorsement agencies are working and they’re having similar conversations about what are the questions around the personal and the professional practice of religion. If somebody’s not praying, for example, I think at least some of the endorsement agencies would pull their endorsement. And there are other contested areas. So for example, if a woman doesn’t wear hijab, is she eligible for endorsement or is she not eligible for endorsement? And those are some really important areas for us to be thinking and in collaboration. I also think though, that it’s important that there’s some process as opposed to getting a letter from a masjiddown the street that doesn’t really know what chaplaincy is. Because really effectively what they’re doing is ordaining somebody as a Muslim chaplain. And while that’s not a part of our tradition, the ordination, there is this other part of ensuring that somebody’s within the professional competencies.


[00:35:39] Dr. Ingrid Mattson: Joshua?


[00:35:41] Joshua Salaam: It’s not, you know, anything special, but just to add to what Jaye was saying. Like, I had a student here who was Ismaili, and was frustrated when people kept on trying to tell her, “Hey, do you want, you need a hijab for prayer?” And we had a conversation in my office. She said, “In my community, I don’t pray with hijab. I never did that. And now to come here and people keep forcing on me,” she felt like it was a microaggression and she started to move away from the community. I haven’t studied Ismailism to, you know, make a comment, but from her, let’s say she wants to become a chaplain, the amount of sensitivity that you have to- say now everybody’s like, “Okay. What type of Muslim are you? How long have you been that type of Muslim?” it’s a weird place to be in, to be that endorsing agency or to be an organization like us that has to like monitor your personal life, in addition to, we don’t even wanna be in that space. You know, it’s like whatever we have to do, it’s just because of rules or policies or violations that, you know, are affecting us in weird ways. But the Muslim community is so diverse is what we’re, you know, what is it? Almost 2 billion Muslims on earth. Very few of them think alike. And then now we have to have these, you know, try to fit into the American system of verifying, and who’s right and not even American system. I’m sure there’s been other, in our Islamic history, we’ve had to do it, but it’s hard to do it. It’s hard to do it. And so I just want people to know from my perspective, it’s not a lane that we wanna be in or that we’re like doing jumping jacks, and having a party that like, “Yeah, we get to you know, verify somebody or approve them.” It’s an awkward space to be in may Allah just guide us and allow us to be verified on a day judgment that we can walk through those gates and not making too many mistakes in this life.


[00:37:20] Mihad Fahmy: It is often said that we need to free ourselves from what and how others view us, and that what truly matters is our own sense of self. But the truth is, recognizing and understanding how others see us is actually fundamental to building and maintaining healthy relationships. This is especially important for those holding power in our communities. As Brother Joshua said, while a chaplain may see her or himself as an average person, others likely see a leader, a teacher, a mentor, and in some cases a spiritual guide. And based on that perception, a power imbalance is struck that informs the relationship and the engagement between the chaplain and the care seeker. All of us in our various private and public roles would do well to step back and try to understand ourselves through the lens of those in our lives. Who are we, not only to ourselves, but to others? In asking this question, we may discover hidden privileges, expectations, and in turn boundaries that need to be upheld.

[00:38:35] For example, the inherent power imbalance that exists between a teacher and student may impact whether consent to enter into a marital relationship can in fact be given even after the teacher-student relationship no longer exists. This is an open question and one which the Association of Muslim Chaplains is grappling with in drafting its Code of Conduct and whether the code ultimately contains a six month or six year moratorium on such relationships is immaterial. What is far more important is the recognition of the power dynamic that renders the initiation of such relationships problematic. Alongside developing and codifying professional boundaries, self care, effective supervision, and the ongoing renewal of one’s intention are crucial to creating a culture and practice of accountability.

[00:39:34] We are so grateful that the field of Muslim chaplaincy is being shaped by the coming together of women and men, each bringing distinct perspectives to the conversation and to the work. This is not a matter of paying lip service to gender balance and representation. Rather, a genuine openness and readiness to understand and learn from one another will enrich the work and service to those seeking care. We wanna thank you for listening to this episode and learning along with us. We hope that you’ve 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. Leave us a rating or a review, or telling a friend, family member, or colleague about the Hurma Project podcast. As always, we’d 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 assistance provided by Maram Albakri and Maysa Haque. We look forward to continuing our conversation with each of you. Until then, assalam alaykum.