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What it’s Like Being Muslim on a Catholic Campus

What it’s Like Being Muslim on a Catholic Campus


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.

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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.

View Comments (5)
  • Hi Ilisha, you know we care about you and will always check up on you.

    How many years now since you converted? 5…6

    Which brings us neatly onto the 7 year itch. Christian convert girls don’t go the distance. This is not long distance running. Have you actually thought about long distance running as a hobby to replace Islam? The smell of the dew on the grass in the early morning, the struggle. Breathe in.. and.. ahh

    • Have you tried not being an obsessive freak you know since freedom of religion? I suggest you also try long distance running to clear your sick mind.

      • Religion is sicker than I. Islam is terminal and I am simply giving it palliative care.

        Got to be cruel to be kind with these temporary converts. They cause more harm than good to all parties

  • Interesting. I know of white people of my religion who have chosen to go to black colleges in the US in the past. I think it is a really good test of your religious conditioning, It takes a community to maintain that balance and regular prayer. I am sure the Christians feel they are positively challenged to become more true to their faith, because of seeing you on a regular basis. This is a good thing. I experience the same thing as an American white guy here in Japan. People who see me feel positively challenged to behave differently. This makes me feel more useful….and other emotions as well, I am sure at the very end of the day, when you graduate from there, you will feel a certain bottom line satisfaction for having made the choice to go there and sticking it out for as long as you do. the same dumb questions will be asked over and over,,,,and yet that is the way learning goes……spiritual development happens this way within a community…there are of course other side effects, but that doesn’t disprove the positives.

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