After three decades in the military, the ivory tower is a new deployment for Shareda Hosein, Tufts University's first female Muslim chaplain. Yet the campus culture wars, while nonlethal, can be nasty.
Interning as an adviser to the university's Muslim Student Association before her appointment as chaplain last month, Hosein was present for the ruckus after an editorial in a conservative student magazine criticized many Muslim nations as intolerant, angering Muslim students. Last month, the university upheld the finding of a student-faculty committee that the editorial constituted harassment, but overturned on free-speech grounds the committee's order that the magazine provide a byline on every editorial and article in the future.
"She was really helpful," said Shirwac Mohamed, cochairman of the Muslim Student Association. "She came to all of our meetings. When we had a hearing [on the matter], she was there all night with us. She's basically been holding our hand throughout the year."
"I feel comfortable with the students," said Hosein, 46, a lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserve. "I see them as my children, not that they are. And I'm a lot older than they think I am."
Her experience at Tufts could help her in her long-term goal of becoming a military chaplain. Three years ago, the brass rejected her request to become the Army's first female Muslim chaplain, but she still hopes to realize that ambition someday. Islam's prohibition on women being prayer leaders concerned military leaders about her fulfilling all of a chaplain's duties, she said.
No such problem impeded Tufts's head chaplain, the Rev. David O'Leary, a Roman Catholic priest, from recommending Hosein for the chaplaincy at Tufts, an appointment he calls a very positive moment for the university.
"She did an outstanding service to my office in building bridges between all the faith groups" as an intern last year, he said. (READ MORE)