An unlikely story

Against stereotypes, Muslim students have found success at Catholic universities.

Daily Editorial Board

With a student enrollment of 50,000, University of Minnesota students meet new classmates of different ethnicities, cultures and religious backgrounds almost every day. The diversity that is often prevalent in highly populated public schools predicts openness, a tolerance for contrasting opinions and ways of thinking, and an acceptance of beliefs that are different from our own. With many secular campuses as diverse and populous as ours across the nation, it’s surprising that Muslim students from around the world are growing in number at Catholic colleges in the U.S.

The New York Times recently published an article that featured interviews with several Muslim students at Catholic colleges and universities, many of whom stated they felt more comfortable in an educational setting where religion or spirituality of any kind was not only accepted but encouraged. Though the two faiths are sometimes — wrongly — portrayed in opposition to one another, several Catholic universities experiencing an influx of Muslim students were more than willing to accommodate their prayer practice and help organize religious gatherings. The perceived conservative reputation of these schools was also a draw for many students. One student interviewed stated, “I don’t have to leave my faith at home when I come to school.”

And she shouldn’t have to. No one should have to leave out part of who they are, regardless of what school they attend, because they are afraid it won’t be accepted. Tolerance is different from respect; while the former is something you can do passively, respecting another’s beliefs requires an active and honest effort to understand, even if you disagree. While our school may not be as reputably “conservative” as others, we as students are fully capable of treating our fellow classmates and their backgrounds with respect, whether they identify as Muslim, Catholic, Buddhist or atheist.