Audio Community Domestic Affairs

Audio: The Imam from Oklahoma

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William Webb is a Christian preacher’s grandson from Oklahoma, which makes him an unlikely voice for American imams. But, as the leader of the Islamic Center of Boston Cultural Center, he has worked hard to give voice to what he calls the “pre-pubescent” American muslim community. Webb, who spent time as a hip-hop DJ in his youth before converting to Islam, tells us in a podcast that the community is still growing, and is still far behind other religions when it comes to finding qualified leaders at the local level. A sign of the challenge: the now widely reported incident of when Tamerlan Tzarnaev attacked an ‘imam’ for not being orthodox enough, the ‘imam’ was actually a community member who’d been drafted to give the sermon that week.

As Webb puts it, that “mediocrity” of the imam corps means the community has a hard time answering the myriad questions that are aimed at the community in the wake of a terror attack, such as the Boston Marathon bombings. Webb is working hard to solve that problem, by directly counseling any wayward youth and, more broadly, by confronting the challenges Islam and other religions face by modernity. He’s also building an imam seminary, to help recruit and develop imams.

Webb was at New America for an “Online Radicalization” event hosted by the National Security Program. You can see the full event here.

SourceNew America Foundation

About the author

Suhaib Webb

Suhaib Webb is a contemporary American-Muslim educator, activist, and lecturer. His work bridges classical and contemporary Islamic thought, addressing issues of cultural, social and political relevance to Muslims in the West. After converting to Islam in 1992, Webb left his career in the music industry to pursue his passion in education. He earned a Bachelor’s in Education from the University of Central Oklahoma and received intensive private training in the Islamic Sciences under a renowned Muslim Scholar of Senegalese descent. Webb was hired as the Imam at the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City, where he gave khutbas (sermons), taught religious classes, and provided counselling to families and young people; he also served as an Imam and resident scholar in communities across the U.S.

From 2004-2010, Suhaib Webb studied at the world’s preeminent Islamic institution of learning, Al-Azhar University, in the College of Shari`ah. During this time, after several years of studying the Arabic Language and the Islamic legal tradition, he also served as the head of the English Translation Department at Dar al-Ifta al-Misriyyah.

Outside of his studies at Al-Azhar, Suhaib Webb completed the memorization of the Quran in the city of Makkah, Saudi Arabia. He has been granted numerous traditional teaching licenses (ijazat), adhering to centuries-old Islamic scholarly practice of ensuring the highest standards of scholarship.

Webb was named one of the 500 Most Influential Muslims in the World by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Center in 2010 and his website,, was voted the best “Blog of the Year” by the 2009 Brass Crescent awards.

Suhaib Webb has lectured extensively around the world including in the Middle East, East Asia, Europe, North Africa and North America. Upon returning from his studies in Egypt, Webb lived in the Bay Area, California, where he worked with the Muslim American Society from Fall 2010 to Winter 2011. He currently serves as the Imam of the Islamic Society of Boston’s Cultural Center (ISBCC).


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