Duke University has named Abdullah T. Antepli as the school's first Muslim chaplain, a full-time position that will provide services ranging from pastoral care to teaching about Islam, Duke officials announced Monday.
Antepli, an imam who's finishing doctoral work at Hartford Seminary in Connecticut, becomes one of only a handful of full-time Muslim chaplains at U.S. colleges and universities. He will start at Duke on July 1, joining the more than 20 campus chaplains ministering to diverse faiths at the university.
"Chaplain Antepli was the overwhelming choice for the position by students, staff and faculty," said Zoila Airall, assistant vice president for campus life at Duke. "He brings a wonderful combination of spirituality, inspiration and wisdom to this position."
Antepli's work at Duke will focus on three primary areas: religious leadership for Duke's Muslim community; pastoral care and counseling for persons of any faith, or of no ascribed faith; and intra- and interfaith work. He will engage students, faculty and staff across campus through seminars, panels and other avenues to provide an Islamic voice to discussions of faith, spirituality, social justice and life in general. Antepli also will teach two introductory courses on Islam.
"Duke is today a leading international university in an increasingly cosmopolitan social and religious culture," said Duke Chapel Dean Sam Wells. "If Duke, alongside other leading Western institutions, is to become a hospitable environment for the formation of a new generation of international Muslim leadership of a broad-minded character, it has to take proactive steps to show the Muslim world here and abroad that it is open for business. Having a joint chaplain/faculty position is saying the university and its students have a great deal to receive from the Muslim tradition and that we are turning the page into a new style of interaction across ethnic and religious boundaries."
Antepli said Islam and Muslims are "at the center of attention in our time."
"People need to learn about Islam and Muslims from Muslims, not from popular media or others who are not qualified to speak on behalf of Muslims," he said. "The Duke leadership admirably recognized this. They had the vision to create this position. It will be my role and responsibility to shoulder that vision."
Antepli completed his basic imam training in his native Turkey. From 1996-2003, he worked on a variety of humanitarian projects in Myanmar and Malaysia with the Association of Social and Economic Solidarity with Pacific Countries.
Antepli, a husband and father of two, is completing his doctor of ministry project at Hartford Seminary, titled "Muslim Campus Ministry: Challenges and Opportunities." He was associate director of the seminary's Islamic Chaplaincy Program & Interfaith Relations and an adjunct faculty member. His responsibilities included syllabus and curriculum development, student recruitment, and leadership of interfaith projects.
Prior to his work at Hartford Seminary, Antepli was the first Muslim chaplain at Wesleyan University, from 2003-2005. He is the founder and executive board member of the Muslim Chaplains Association and is a member of the National Association of College and University Chaplains.
Duke's Muslim community has been served for the past nine years in a voluntary capacity by Imam Abdul-hafeez Waheed, who Wells said he hopes "will continue to have a role in the new arrangements. We are grateful to him for carrying the flag for Muslim ministry here at Duke for a long time and helping us envision these new possibilities."