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Meet Imam Joshua, Duke University’s Muslim Chaplain

DURHAM – As a hip-hop artist and US Air Force veteran, Joshua Salaam is not a  typical Muslim chaplain for Duke University students in North Carolina.

“After working with youth for a decade, I became familiar with chaplaincy and starting studying chaplaincy at Hartford Seminary and thought this is what the Muslim community needed,” Salaam told Duke Chronicle on Wednesday, August 15.

“I was recommended by the cousin of a Duke Law student. When I started looking to be a chaplain, I found out Duke was still looking,” he added.

Talking about his goals, Salaam said that he seeks to brand the Duke University Muslim experience to attract Muslim students to apply there.

“My rebranding project will be a working document. How are my experiences better, my relationships stronger, my faith helps me to be laser focused on what I want to do? I hope these questions can be answered. I want the brand to be institutionalized so—no matter who works on the Center for Muslim Life staff—the experience will be there,” he explained.

“I think growing and watching others grow [and] being at a university that recruits a lot of highly intellectual people. I think I’ll grow a lot, and I’m excited and interested to see how people change and why people change.

“I’m hopeful of breaking down stereotypes of other people on campus like, ‘I never knew that Muslims did that or believe that.’ I want people to be educated about the nuances of our faith tradition and us as people.”

Talking about his Muslim community in Duke; “American Muslim youth haven’t been trained in logic and equipped with the ability to defend their beliefs and understandings in the public square. There’s a lot of things in the faith that they believe that they have been taught, but they don’t question ideas in the faith,” Salaam believes.

The new chaplain hopes to “build a stronger Muslim community at Duke by establishing a culture of healthy relationships and encouraging Muslims to get involved in civic engagement.” He also plans to organize Qur’an lessons beside other religious courses.

Since the colonial era, North Carolina has historically been overwhelmingly Protestant Christian. Even though, the population still practices a wide variety of faiths, including Judaism, Islam, Baha’i, Buddhism, and Hinduism.

According to the Pew Forum 2014 report, Muslims represented less than 1% of the population of this state of North Carolina.