Points 6-10 are copied from or based on Prof. Ingrid Mattson’s conclusions, but apply equally to the Canadian context. She concluded, at the end of a year or so of research and speaking to community leaders in the States, that she would establish a chaplain program for Muslims, not an Imam program.
1. Because of the largely immigrant composition of the Muslim community in Canada and the absence of the extended family support structure, Muslims are increasingly relying on Imams to provide family and other counseling. Imams are not generally trained to provide this service, since in the countries of origin they are not usually called on to do so—most people depend on the extended family and other elders for counsel and do not generally go to the Imam at the local mosque for help. Thus Imams need specialized, professional training in family and other counseling in order to provide the Muslim community with the professional guidance that they need.
2. Imams also need well-paying jobs—many provide their services on a voluntary basis or are not sufficiently paid by the local mosques. Chaplaincy is a professional degree, with which they can work at a hospital, prison or other institution, and receive a good income independent of the mosque. They can always supplement their income through running mosque activities and other services.
3. Imams also need accreditation—many have Masters, PhD’s or other degrees from foreign countries which are not recognized in Canada. Chaplaincy is an accredited degree at the Masters level and if they should so choose, they can continue to do a Ph.D. and later teach at a university.
4. It will improve the quality of services provided by Imams, since they will be better able to understand and meet the needs of Muslims in Canada, and thereby gain the respect of their communities.
5. Up to now, the Canadian Council of Imams has been providing chaplaincy certification for Imams through the Ontario Multifaith Council; however, once the new Ontario College of Chaplains comes into play, this will no longer be possible. Imams wishing to work as chaplains will need to receive the appropriate training. If we do not have a chaplaincy training program in place, we will have a void.
6. Due to the needs of religious formation, Emmanuel does not have the full institutional support and trained staff to train Imams in all the areas they need. Thus chaplaincy is a better option.
7. Chaplaincy is a program open to women and in which their religious leadership is accepted by the majority of Muslims. It will provide equal opportunities for women.
8. Chaplaincy is where private religious practice and spiritual needs intersect with public institutions and life -- it enables us to be at the cutting edge for developing more sophisticated theological and ethical approaches to our pluralistic, modern context.
9. Chaplaincy permits developing new forms of religious leadership which, at the same time, offer traditional religious practices and spiritual support.
10. Muslim chaplains have the potential of setting new standards for religious leadership and professionalism because they work in established institutions that support their professional growth, offer oversight, mentoring, support for continuing education, and supervision.