By Jessy Bains
The University of Toronto selected its first full-time Muslim chaplain earlier this week after conducting an extensive interview process.
Amjad Tarsin, 28, a graduate of the Hartford Seminary in Connecticut, served as the full-time chaplain at Fairfield University in that state prior to being hired at U of T.
In all, 20 people were interviewed for the job. Tarsin will take up his duties later next month.
Ruqayyah Ahdab, the managing director of the Muslim Chaplaincy, was a member of the board tasked with the selection process and said Tarsin’s passion, past experience and credentials led to the selection.
“The person that really stood out for us was Amjad,” Ahdab told Humber News on Thursday.
“He was passionate about university life and students as they are growing and shaping their ideas and trying to develop identities while they are in university – it’s a very formative time .”
Ahdab said this is the first fully independent full-time paid Muslim chaplain in Canada.
Relationship building, recognizing needs of the diverse student population, providing educational and programming services and spiritual counseling are some of the key components of the role. And also being a positive role model, said Tarsin.
“Being someone who was in university not that long ago, I’ve been in similar situations to what students may be going through,” Tarsin told Humber News.
“I can relate to the challenges whether they be personal or academic, that people are going through.”
Mentoring and guidance, and “curbing extreme thinking of any kind” are listed as part of the chaplaincy’s mandate.
“We want to really deal proactively with challenges that students are facing, such as alienation, loneliness, confusion, or frustration , by providing services in support and direction and positive education and fellowship,” said Tarsin.
Tarsin said he is opposed to the violent response across the Islamic world to The Innocence of Muslims video that insults the Prophet Muhammed and suggests Muslims look to the Qur’an for answers on how to respond.
“In his life the Prophet was also faced with people who criticized and opposed him and we see time and time again that his response was patience and forbearance,” said Tarsin. “To me that is clearly the way to approach these kinds of situations.”