The other day, I stumbled across a piece on the increasing number of Muslim students at Catholic colleges in the United States. The New York Times article is the result of interviews with students and administrators at several American Catholic institutions. Also accompanying the article was the usual array of pictures depicting Muslim women in colorful hijabs on campus, further underscoring the author’s thesis of “thriving Muslims” at US colleges. While I appreciate the author’s attempt to highlight an emerging trend, how is the increased attendance of “Muslim” international students any different the thousands of Muslims (Americans and otherwise) already attending world-renowned colleges and universities in the US?
Firstly, I find the title not only off-putting but also somewhat inaccurate. “Muslims From Abroad Are Thriving in Catholic Colleges” sounds like a caption akin to “Aliens From Outer Space Are Thriving on Earth”. Moreover, while the title appears to refer exclusively to expatriate Muslims, the author also cites the example of Pakistani American, Maha Haroon, a pre-med undergraduate who chose Creighton University, a Catholic university in Omaha (Nebraska). This leads me to question if there has been a general increase in American Muslims attending Catholic colleges and universities in the US.
From the outset, the author is quick to point out that while no definitive figures are available, on average, the Muslim student population at Catholic colleges has doubled over the past decade with the number of Muslim women tripling or more. At the same time, this assessment could also hold true in terms of a general increase in Muslim students across all American colleges and universities and not necessarily just Catholic institutions. According to this, the number of international students attending US universities and colleges has risen by five percent to 723,277 during the 2010/11 academic year. Saudi Arabia and Iran are among several countries which have experienced the strongest increases in the number of students. Saudi Arabia in particular owes this increase to its expansive scholarship program. Additionally, since much of the Arab world is experiencing a jump in the number of women attending tertiary education institutes, it comes as no surprise that Catholic colleges have experiences a similar rise in female Muslim students. [Read more...]