Alberta’s neuroscience student Doha Anwar did not know where to seek help when she struggled with school work and questions about faith and the future.
“I don’t think anyone else would have been able to
understand that better than someone who would understand the religion
To provide the much-needed help, Anwar, now president of the Muslim Student Association, has helped to create and fund a new chaplain position dedicated to the mental wellness of youth.
Taking up his new role in February, Muslim chaplain Ibrahim
Long will support students at the U of A, Northern Alberta Institute of
Technology and MacEwan University.
“(Young people) want to live their faith but
they’re struggling with the natural issues that come up in life and they
want to find a safe place or a safe person with whom they could confide these
struggles and can provide them with some guidance,” Long said in a recent
interview with CBC News.
As many youths find it difficult to turn to mosques to seek help, a youth Muslim chaplain was urged to help bridge the generation gap.
“They do want to bring it up,” said Long, who studied counseling and Islamic theology at Hartford Seminary in Connecticut. “So a chaplain helps to bridge that gap.”
Along with lending youth an ear, the new youth chaplain will
help instill a sense of belonging.
“We’re following in the really proud tradition we see of (Indigenous) elders in residence in many Canadian institutions,” Executive director Omar Yaqub said. “This is the stuff that works. This is the stuff that connects with youth in a really meaningful way.”
Ingrid Mattson, chair of Islamic studies at the
University of Western, founded the chaplaincy program at Hartford where Long
According to Mattson, the position helps youth exercise
their right to religious accommodation in a society that primarily accommodates
“So religious minorities need to be able to negotiate
their own time off or accommodations for their gatherings and for their
practices, and young people need to learn how to do that for themselves,”
Mattson said. “So with the assistance of the chaplain they can learn to
articulate their needs.”
Mattson said Edmonton is fortunate to have Long in this
“He is a very gentle and wise person who I think will
really bring a lot of benefit to the community,” she said.
📚 Read Also: Are Our Mosques Youth-Friendly?
Muslim Chaplains in the US
In different universities and campuses, Muslim chaplains often serve both Muslims and non-Muslims,
offering spiritual support and guidance.
In recent years, chaplains have acted as intra-institutional
leaders who work towards greater interfaith understanding and community
Today, Muslim chaplaincy in the West has moved away from da’wah
towards a focus on support and pastoral care, according to the Association of
Muslim Chaplains, a professional organization begun in 2011.