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Peggy Fletcher Stack
Peggy Fletcher Stack has been producing stories for The Salt Lake Tribune's award-winning Faith section for nearly two decades. Writing about contemporary faith, rituals, and spirituality as well as religion's conflicts and cohesion has always been Stack's passion. Follow her at facebook.com/peggy.fletcherstack, Twitter @religiongal

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Muslim becomes BYU-Hawaii's first non-Mormon student president

Brigham Young University-Hawaii has its first non-Mormon student body president — and he’s a Muslim.

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Mustapha El Akkari, the Lebanese-born student who came to the Mormon-owned school three years ago on a full-ride basketball scholarship, takes office this week, according to an article in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

"In its 57-year-history, BYUH has never had a non-church member," the article said, "and certainly not an Arabic-speaking Muslim leading its student body population, currently 2,673 students."

Trouble is, El Akkari will not get his basketball scholarship during his senior year and the money typically given to student leaders is not enough to cover his higher, non-Mormon tuition.

"BYUH's tuition is $2,225 per semester for LDS members and will go up to $4,450 for non-church members," university spokesman Michael Johanson told the Star-Advertiser.

Still, El Akkari, a business student, is not discouraged.

He is "bunking with friends across from the Polynesian Cultural Center," the paper reported, "while looking for another $5,000 to cover his expenses."

And he is not upset with the school’s policies.

"They never had a non-LDS president before," said El Akkari, 23. "I'm the first ever, so it's something they didn't consider. I don't blame them."

Peggy Fletcher Stack

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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