Muslims Enrolling at Catholic Colleges in Growing Numbers

Last year, there was a media firestorm about a complaint filed by a George Washington University Professor against The  Catholic University of America alleging discrimination of Muslims at the Catholic college. The complaint stated that crosses and other Christian symbols were offensive to Muslims.

No actual Muslim students were involved in the complaint and now The New York Times is reporting that Muslims are attending Catholic colleges in growing numbers specifically because of their religious nature. And ironically, they’re sometimes disappointed that some Catholic colleges are not faithful enough.

Image Credit: Ty William Wright/The New York Times

The Times reports that a decade ago, the University of Dayton had just 12 students from predominantly Muslim countries, all of them men. Last year, the report said, there were 78, and about one-third of them were women. And, according to the report, this is not an anomaly but Muslim populations on Catholic campuses are growing everywhere at a rate outpacing those at public universities. Since 2007 Muslim enrollment at The Catholic University of America has more than doubled, from 56 to 122, according to a statement by CUA President John Garvey that appeared in The Washington Post last October.

Surprisingly, it is the religious aspect of the college that Muslim students reportedly found most attractive.

“Here, people are more religious, even if they’re not Muslim, and I am comfortable with that,” said Mai Alhamad, a University of Dayton student told The Times. “I’m more comfortable talking to a Christian than an atheist.”

Some students were actually disappointed in the Catholic identity of the colleges they attended.

Many Muslim students, particularly women, say they based their college choices partly on the idea that Catholic schools would be less permissive than others in the United States, though the behavior they say they witness later can call that into question.

They like the prevalence of single-sex floors in dorms, and even single-sex dorms at some schools. “I thought it would be a better fit for me, more traditional, a little more conservative,” said Shameela Idrees, a Pakistani undergraduate in business at Marymount University in Arlington, Va., who at first lived in an all-women dorm.

The Times also reports that some Catholic colleges have made accommodations to Muslim students such as setting aside spaces for them to pray and installing an ablution room for washing of hands and feet.

Matthew Archbold


Matthew Archbold is a contributing writer to Campus Notes and to National Catholic Register, as well as the co-founder of the popular website, Creative Minority Report.

Subscribe to CE
(It's free)

Go to Catholic Exchange homepage

  • AnnaMarie53

    Wait a minute…let me get this straight…a professor at ANOTHER university filed a complaint against the Catholic University of America, alleging discrimination against Muslim students, but ZERO actual Muslim students had anything to do with it? Exactly what business is it of his (or hers) WHAT a private university does, especially when the supposed injured party isn’t complaining? Here, I fear, is more of the “pretzel logic” of the typical busy body! I say, butt the heck out of what is none of your business! Even if it were the Muslim students were themselves complaining, I would suggest they go to a university more in line with their comfort level. But they are not! In point of fact, the Muslim students are not only NOT complaining, they are reportedly happier with the more non-mainstream lack of morality these Catholic universities provide. Furthermore, they would, they say, be happier with even MORE morality codes! These students know full well before they apply that they are not going to anything other than a CATHOLIC center of higher education.
    So, as the elderly lady used to be quoted in the “Wendy’s” commercials, “Where’s the beef?”

  • Towerofevel

    As long as Catholic teachings and symbols are given their due respect as hosts to these Muslim guests, let all religions attend the Catholic Universities, and Colleges. This is a great opportunity to lovingly and intellectually engage mano a mano, smart kids from other religions and parts of the world and perhaps evangelize as Christ ordered us to do. As a professor of theology, our Pope will be very pleased with this work.