Duke University hires full-time Muslim imam

In a sign of the changing makeup of its students, Duke University has hired its first imam, or Muslim religious leader, becoming one of only a handful of universities in the United States that have full-time Muslim clergy.

Abdullah Antepli, a native of Turkey who is completing his doctoral work at Hartford Seminary in Hartford, Conn., will become the Muslim imam and chaplain on campus beginning July 1.

Antepli will join a roster of at least 20 faith leaders, including a rabbi, a Roman Catholic priest and a dozen Protestant ministers who attend to the spiritual needs of Duke's increasingly diverse student body.

“Here's a university seeing a growing need for a qualified Muslim chaplain and graciously responding to the need,” “It's really admirable,” Antepli said. “They could easily have ignored it or asked the Muslim community to pay for it.”

Duke has at least 300 undergraduate and graduate students who claim Islam as their religion. The university has no precise numbers because students are not required to disclose their faith. About 50 of those students are actively involved in its Muslim Student Association. Duke also has dozens of Muslims working for the university in various capacities.

“It's an important moment for a university that has historic Methodist roots in the South,” said Tom Tweed, formerly a professor of religious studies at UNC Chapel Hill, and now at the University of Texas at Austin.