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In an effort to reach members of underrepresented religious groups, the Chaplain's Office has hired the first of what may be a few Interfaith Fellows.

Adnan Zulfiqar - a 2008 graduate of Penn Law and a "brilliant scholar," according to University Chaplain Chaz Howard - will serve as an Interfaith Fellow and Campus Minister to the Muslim community.

"The concept was that our office wanted to provide a fellowship where the campus religious groups who do not have full-time dedicated staff could have that," Howard said. "This year it happens to be a fellow for the Muslim community. In future years, it could be someone for the Hindu community, the Sikh community and so forth."

So far, Zulfiqar has received a warm welcome.

"Adnan is fantastic not only because he's very knowledgeable about everything that has to do with Islam, but also because he has tried everything you would want to do after finishing your undergraduate degree," said Muslim Student Association communications chairwoman and College junior Roxana Moussavian.

Originally from Alexandria, Va., Zulfiqar is currently completing a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages. He also holds a Bachelor of Arts in Religion and Anthropology from Emory University and a Masters from Georgetown University.

Moussavian emphasized the importance of creating an administrative position "whose responsibilities have to do solely with anything and everything that affects the Muslim community."

Zulfiqar, who Moussavian called a "dictionary of experiences," has received praise from many people in the Penn community, most notably Howard. The two meet weekly and communicate daily.

"Since being in a new position, he has already had a wonderful time reaching out to folks from different populations and meeting with people," Howard said.

Howard credited Zulfiqar's smooth transition into the position to his warmth and accessibility.

"He is a brilliant scholar, but he is just a gifted human citizen too," Howard said. "That is what people are so attracted to when they meet him - that he really comes with head and heart."

Zulfiqar admits there may be both "ups and downs [to Penn] as there are at any university," but praised his experience so far.

"I have already had a chance to meet with quite a few students," he said. "Feeling as though I am providing an outlet for a lot of kids who have stuff on their chests that they want to talk about is really a highlight."

Zulfiqar, who says part of his duty "is playing the role of the listening ear," was also asked to speak at the inaugural 9/11 Ramadan Banquet last Friday, which was organized by the MSA and a plethora of other campus groups.

In light of this success, Howard has plans to expand the Interfaith Fellow position in the coming years.

"The hope is that we can have a few Interfaith Fellows for a few different communities down the road," he said, "but we are going to take it one step at a time."

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