Celene Ibrahim to depart from position as Muslim Chaplain

Celene Ibrahim poses for a portrait on Sept. 30, 2014. Grace Cooper/The Tufts Daily Archives

Tufts’ Muslim Chaplain Celene Ibrahim, Ph.D., will leave the Tufts community after a five-year tenure. Throughout her time on campus, Ibrahim helped expand accommodations for Muslim students and enhance the experiences of Tufts’ Muslim community.

She will be taking up a teaching appointment in religious studies and philosophy at the Groton School in the fall, where her daughter will begin as a new student, according to Ibrahim.

Currently, no one is set to take her place in the fall; however, the chaplaincy team will begin a national search later this month to fill the vacancy.

Ibrahim’s time as chaplain has seen the creation of two additional prayer and meditation spaces on campus: one in Curtis Hall and another in Cabot Hall in the Fletcher School, according to Ibrahim.

Ibrahim said she has also partnered with Tufts Dining to ensure an array of halal options.

Ibrahim’s tenure has also aided in the continual development of the Muslim House (M-House), special interest housing for Muslim students or those interested in Islamic religion. The chaplaincy worked with a team at the Office of Residential Life and Learning (ORLL) to meet the demands of M-House, according to Ibrahim.

Her proudest milestone is the establishment of the Tufts University Muslim Alumni Association (TUMAA) in 2016, according to Ibrahim. According to the university chaplaincy’s website, TUMAA creates a forum through which Muslim alumni and friends can continue being involved in the educational mission of the university.

Ibrahim told the Daily in an email that TUMAA also allows alumni to be involved in celebrations and stay connected to the Muslim community at Tufts.

“We also have a great time getting together to celebrate Ramadan, Eid on the Green, and other such annual events,” Ibrahim said. “Alumni continue to return to connect with friends and with the current students, and there is a real sense of community and Muslim Jumbo pride.”

Ibrahim said TUMAA now includes several dozen members.

Ibrahim’s time at Tufts has also been spent combating the growing effects of Islamophobia and bias against Muslims reflected across the country.

“The past five years have also been marked by rising levels of anti-Muslim bias in the American public sphere, and so we’ve been working very diligently as a University Chaplaincy team in collaboration with our campus multifaith groups to create spaces that celebrate our unique identities and that provide a network of solidarity across cultures and across minoritized identities in particular,” she said.

The Muslim Students Association (MSA) and the Fletcher Islamic Society have worked with the Muslim communities on Tufts’ other campuses to eliminate falsities and foster authentic relationships, according to Ibrahim.

Ibrahim’s colleague, University Chaplain Reverend Greg McGonigle, recalled her early days as Muslim Chaplain.

“[Ibrahim] was initially recommended to me five years ago by our previous Muslim Chaplain as a temporary Muslim Chaplain for Ramadan,” he said in an email. “When she took that role, she did not think she would be able to stay on for the Muslim Chaplain role due to other theological school teaching commitments, but she soon fell in love with our campus, and she was our students’ and our first choice in our last national search.”

He cites her numerous accomplishments and partnerships created with the ORLL, Dining Services, Tufts Admissions and the Group of Six, groups which are especially important to supporting the Muslim community on campus.

“Over the past five years, [Ibrahim] has had a transformative impact on Muslim life at Tufts, which has enriched the Tufts experience for everyone,” he said.

She has worked alongside the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life and the department of religion to help pave new pathways for intellectual engagement. Ibrahim has also contributed significantly to the interfaith work with the chaplaincy team, the first-year pre-orientation program CAFE, the Interfaith Student Council and these communities.

“We will miss her very much in her current role, but I hope we will find other ways to work together in the future — Celene is a joy to know and to work with,” McGonigle said.

Najma Jama, the interfaith chair of MSA, commented on her time with Ibrahim.

“Celene Ibrahim is one of the most personable, attentive and empathetic individuals I have had the pleasure of meeting,” Jama, a sophomore, said. “Celene’s impact on the Tufts community exists beyond tangible initiatives; her true impact exists in the life-long relationships and connections she has fostered with current students and alumni alike.”

Ibrahim reflected on the relationships that will continue despite her departure from the Tufts community.

“I will miss being at Tufts regularly, but the relationships, I know, will continue wherever I go. And don’t be surprised if you see me pop up on campus for a lecture or event. I am now telling myself what I tell graduating students every year: We’re a big family, and that connection spans the globe and our lifetimes,” she said.


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