University Chaplaincy hires Muslim associate

Abubakr Fakhry Abou-Elala was appointed as the Muslim associate in the University Chaplaincy last semester, as current Muslim Chaplain Celene Ibrahim is finishing her doctoral studies at Brandeis University.

Abou-Elala is scheduled to be on staff until May, according to Ibrahim. She noted that Abou-Elala is an important resource for the Muslim community at Tufts as she completes her studies.

“Increasing my bandwidth to be present to student needs by bringing on a temporary associate has been a great blessing and asset to the community,” she told the Daily in an email. “Many Muslims students, staff and faculty are doing double-duty; they are having to pursue their own educations, career objectives and life-goals while simultaneously functioning as cultural and religious diplomats. This double-duty can be quite exhausting.”

Abou-Elala has spent much of his career in youth work and is also the youth director at the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center, where he founded the youth leadership and mentoring program ARKanum. According to the Chaplaincy website, he also co-founded Utopia – Boston, another program for Muslim youth in the area, and is a fellow at Boston Bridges, an interfaith engagement program organized by Hebrew College in Newton, Mass.

Abou-Elala explained that, as the new Muslim Associate, he is working closely with Ibrahim as she completes her doctoral studies, supporting students on campus, meeting with students individually as needed and getting to know the Tufts environment.

“I am basically working with the chaplain, Celene [Ibrahim], in facilitating different activities and events for the community,” he said. “I lead at the Friday sermon once or twice a month, and I speak in different activities for them.”

Muslim Students Association (MSA) President Nazifa Sarawat said that the community is very happy to have Abou-Elala’s support in the Chaplaincy.

“He seems really well received in the community,” Sarawat, a senior, said. “He’s a really knowledgeable and approachable guy, and he’s supporting our program.”

Abou-Elala said that he is excited to work with the MSA during his time at Tufts.

“For now I’m still new to the community, still observing before I set any particular goals or direction each for me to take,” he said. “The MSA is really very active, so my role is really to support [them]. They are very well organized.”

Ibrahim noted that support for the Muslim community is especially important right now, given the rise of Islamophobia.

“Muslim community members and other targeted minorities need robust support systems. Tufts has commendably stepped up to meet this needed support with different initiatives across the university to support students in this trying political climate,” she said.

Ibrahim explained that Abou-Elala is dedicated to serving the Tufts community.

“Abubakr brings a wealth of experience, a deep commitment to Islamic learning, to pluralism and to forging human connections,” she said. “I am pleased and proud to call him a colleague.”

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