Photo: On Islam
Photo: On Islam

Portland, 2 Sya’ban 1436/20 May 2015 (MINA) – A Portland Muslim imam has made history by becoming the first Muslim to graduate from a Catholic university.

“I was looking for a place to be accepted as myself and to be the true face of Islam, though I am not the best follower,” Abdullah Polovina, who leads a congregation of Bosnian Muslims in Portland said, On Islam quoted by Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA) as reporting, Wednesday (20/5).

The imam (41), has recently completed a master’s degree at Seattle University’s School of Theology and Ministry, where he was the first Muslim to ever enroll.

For more than a decade, Polovina lived in Seattle as an imam before moving to Portland in 2013.

Taking the position of the leader of Bosniaks Educational and Cultural Organization, he first connected with leaders at Seattle University through interfaith-dialogue events.

Holding education at a high position, Polovina said he wanted to pursue a graduate degree that would improve his leadership, finding Seattle’s transformation leadership program appealing.

For him, studying the Bible was not comfortable at the beginning. Later, he quickly settled into sharing his own perspective and appreciating the overlaps.

During the class, he proved many similarities between Islam and Christianity from moral values to key historical figures.

“I felt at home,” Polovina, an immigrant from the former Yugoslavia, said.

“I strengthened my faith and strengthened myself as a leader.”

Mark Markuly, dean of the three-year-old School of Theology and Ministry, praised the imam’s participation for adding more value to the program.

“There were some students that I think had never spent time or known anyone of the Muslim tradition,” Markuly said.

“By his presence in classes, Abdullah helped a lot of our students more deeply encounter the wealth of the Muslim tradition.”

He added that students in the degree program explore the spirituality of leadership in the courses designed to make them more self-critical, reflective and thoughtful by integrating their own religious heritage into leadership theory.

Polovina’s presence also alerted faculty to a few changes they’d need to make in order for the campus to be more Muslim-friendly, such as providing pork-free meals and working around daily prayers.

Polovina believes that Islam and Christianity can flourish in the same space whether it’s a classroom or a country.

“Belief is like food,” he said. “When we get hungry, we eat.”

US Muslims are estimated between 6-8 million.

A Gallup poll found that the majority of US Muslims are patriotic and loyal to their country and are optimistic about their future. (T/P006/R03)

Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA)