ORANGE – Catering to the recent increase in Chapman University’s Muslim student population in Orange City, California, the university’s Fish Interfaith Center has hired Shaykh Jibreel Speight as its first Director of Muslim Life, The Panther Online reported on September 9.
“Chapman recognized that we have a large Muslim community. It would be wise for someone here to work with them and be a guide to them and others into how to practice Islam,” Speight said.
After studying electrical engineering at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, Speight, who was born in New York, worked as an engineer before attending Umm Al-Qura University in Makkah, Saudi Arabia, where he studied Arabic and judicial studies.
Speight is the third director of religious life at Chapman, joining Rabbi Corie Yutkin and Nancy Brink, the director of church relations. He will lead Friday prayers.
According to Gail Stearns, dean of the Fish Interfaith Center, Speight’s main role is to be a mentor for both Muslim and non-Muslim students, and to educate students about Islam, as well as to encourage students of different religions to engage with one another.
“We put together a strategic plan where we decided that we needed a more interfaith staff about three years ago. We looked at the major religions (on campus) and decided which were the important ones to have personnel from, and one of them was to have a director of Muslim life,” the dean explained.
As the director of Muslim life and Chaplain to the university, Speight will help Muslims on campus communicate with different religious clubs on campus.
“Speight will be able to educate Muslim Student Association members on Islamic theology,” clarified Hakeem Wakil, a junior integrated educational studies major and the president of Muslim Student Association.
The association, which aims to spread awareness about Islam for both Muslim and non-Muslim students, hosts educational events, like Hijab and Kufi Day, where students are encouraged to try on traditional Muslim headpieces.
According to Pew’s 2014 report, Muslims represented 1% of the total population of California. Large Muslim communities are concentrated in Orange County, West Los Angeles, San Diego, Beverly Hills, Santa Clara County, and the Modesto area.