Being Muslim on a Catholic college campus certainly has its ups and downs.
First off, there’s the inevitable challenge of being different from the majority. While there is a significant population of Muslims on my campus, we are a minority and are often looked at with a lesser value in the eyes of students. However, Manhattan College (where I attend) has done an incredible job of promoting the Lasallian value of interfaith solidarity and supports the Muslim Community. As president of the Muslim Student Association, I can attest to the fact that the faculty at MC go above and beyond to learn more about our faith and how they can help us maintain our faith on campus.
One of the struggles of being Muslim on campus is finding a place to pray. On our campus, we do have a dedicated prayer room for Muslims and host weekly Jummah (Friday) prayers in a designated meditation room. Often I’ll find myself rushing between classes to make it to the prayer room, located on the other side of campus. However, there are times where I cannot make it across campus and must resort to other means, like finding a quiet place to pray such as a study room in the library or perhaps in the Campus Ministry offices.
One of the struggles of being Muslim on campus is finding a place to pray.
One of the benefits of attending a Catholic college is the focus it has on the student body’s core values and principles of faith. Attending a college focused on faith, with a Campus ministry, allows me to maintain my religion and balance college life. The focus on religion also provides an incredible number of opportunities to learn about other religions and their practices, even the not-so-common ones. All students are required to take a set number of courses in religious studies. Most do not consider this a hassle, but rather an incredible opportunity to learn more about other religions–even their own.
Finally, there’s the element of being a woman of color on campus who chooses to wear a hijab. On one hand, there is the respect amongst students and faculty for my faith. On the other hand, there are the few people who see my hijab as a target and throw slurs my way as I walk from one class to another. For a significant time after the election of Donald Trump, there were times I no longer felt safe wearing the hijab as it made me a target for the Trump supporters. However, at the end of the day, I chose to keep wearing it as an embodiment of my faith. The perpetrators of hate speech were a small group compared to the majority who take my hijab to be a symbol of peace. Alongside this, professors and students often stop me to ask questions about Islam, which promotes a dialogue between different peoples of faith on campus.
Being Muslim on a Catholic campus comes with its fair share of challenges–but, let’s be honest, being a Muslim anywhere in America does. At the end of the day, attending a faith-based institution was the best decision I made in order to maintain the role my religion has in my day to day life.