Muslim students growing in numbers at Catholic universities

by Maureen Fiedler

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Catholic colleges and universities today find themselves at the forefront of fostering positive interfaith relations with Muslims. According to an article in today’s Washington Post, Muslim students are enrolling at Catholic institutions of higher learning in unprecedented numbers.

That includes The Catholic University of America where the enrollment of students who identify as Muslim has gone from a total of 41 in 2006 to 91 in 2010.

It’s intriguing to see why this is the case.

Many Muslim students enroll for the same reasons any student would: solid academic programs, good professors, attractive campuses. But according to Reef Al-Shaban, a student at Catholic University, there is another reason.

She enrolled “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."

Al-Shaban is a political science major who apparently does not feel alien in her pale beige head scarf.

Muslims may find the crucifixes and Christian art around campus a bit alien, but they do be-speak a religious atmosphere that these students value.

Some universities, like Georgetown, have been at the forefront of welcoming Muslim students. They provide prayer rooms, certify Muslim student associations -- and in the case of Georgetown -- house acclaimed centers for Muslim-Christian understanding.

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