Commentary Magazine


Muslim Students, Catholic Universities

An article in today’s Washington Post notes the increase in Muslim students who attend Catholic colleges, including the flagship Catholic University in Washington, D.C. The number is now higher at some Catholic colleges than at secular institutions and poses interesting dilemmas for both the students and schools. What apparently attracts the students in the first place is the religious nature of the campuses, but it makes for some startling images, as the Post photo gallery makes clear.

Students praying to Allah under crucifixes will surely give pause to many people, but the trend may be a positive one. It suggests a bow to the pluralism that increasingly defines America. These Muslim students are not smashing idols but learning to find their own niche among others who do not share their faith but who do share a commitment to religious education.

As one Catholic U Muslim student explains it, “Because it is an overtly religious place, it’s not strange or weird to care about your religion here, to pray and make God a priority,” said Shabnan, a political science major who often covers her head with a pale beige scarf. “They have the same values we do.” Many of these students come from Saudi Arabia and other places in the Muslim world where no such religious tolerance is practiced. But clearly, these particular students are learning that we do things differently in the United States.