Muslim students find welcome on Catholic college campuses
By Carol Zimmermann
LOS ANGELES, Cal., Dec. 7, 2006 (www.the-tidings.com) - On Catholic college campuses across the country, it is not uncommon to find Muslim students praying in a makeshift prayer room or campus mosque five times a day.
At Georgetown University in Washington, Muslim students also can speak regularly with an imam since the school became the first American university to hire a full-time Muslim chaplain seven years ago.
Although there are no accurate figures on the number of Muslim students at Catholic colleges, the numbers have gone up in recent years, according to administrators who have seen more students participate in campus-sponsored associations for Muslim students.
This increase is not just in large urban colleges either. At Benedictine University, just outside Chicago, approximately 15 percent of the school's 1,800 undergraduate students have identified themselves as Muslim, according to Mercy Robb, the university's executive director of public relations. And that's just the students who choose to identify their religious affiliation; Catholic colleges do not require students to do so.
Robb told Catholic News Service that the university attracts a lot of Muslim students because the school's "values are a fit for them personally."
At nearby Loyola University Chicago, the number of Muslim students also has gone up in recent years. Christopher Murphy, the school's director of university ministry, knows the population has grown because the campus mosque recently had to be reconfigured to make room for more women in the segregated prayer areas.
"Many Muslims are comfortable here and we are attracting more and more," Murphy said, noting that Muslim students "sense their expression of faith is not ridiculed" and they also know "religion is not a taboo subject here."