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.

Avatar photo


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