Roxbury Mosque Struggles To Find The Right Imam

Boston NPR:
The Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center in Roxbury (Martha Bebinger/WBUR)

If you are Protestant, Catholic or Jewish in the United States, the search for a new pastor or priest or rabbi is a well-worn path. Not so for the growing number of Muslims in America.

The first American college for Muslim clergy just opened last year — there are no standards for imams, and the training imams receive overseas doesn’t match many of the expectations here. The challenges of finding an appropriate imam are playing out across the country — like at the largest mosque in New England, the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center in Roxbury.

The Search For A New Imam
It’s noon, time for the second of five prayers in the Muslim day. Thirty-seven men stand shoulder-to-shoulder in this striking red brick mosque as the call to prayer echoes off the walls of the dome.

Lay members lead the congregation in prayer. Mosque leaders are searching for a full-time imam. They’ve been looking for a year and a half.

“We knew it would take a while,” said Bilaal Kaleem, president of the Muslim American Society of Boston and member of the imam search committee at the Roxbury mosque. “We didn’t think it would take this long. This is, you know, this is new ground.”

New ground, Kaleem said, because Islam is relatively new in the U.S.


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