Muslims Enroll at Catholic Colleges in Growing Numbers
Arriving from Kuwait to attend college here, Mai Alhamad wondered how Americans would receive a Muslim, especially one whose head scarf broadcasts her religious identity.
At any of the countless secular universities she might have chosen, religion — at least in theory — would be beside the point. But she picked one that would seem to underline her status as a member of a religious minority. She enrolled at the University of Dayton, a Roman Catholic school, and she says it suits her well.
“Here, people are more religious, even if they’re not Muslim, and I am comfortable with that,” said Ms. Alhamad, an undergraduate in civil engineering, as several other Muslim women gathered in the student center nodded in agreement. “I’m more comfortable talking to a Christian than an atheist.”
A decade ago, the University of Dayton, with 11,000 undergraduate and graduate students, had just 12 from predominantly Muslim countries, all of them men, said Amy Anderson, the director of the school’s Center for International Programs. Last year, she said, there were 78, and about one-third of them were women.
The flow of students from the Muslim world into American colleges and universities has grown sharply in recent years, and women, though still far outnumbered by men, account for a rising share.
No definitive figures are available, but interviews with students and administrators at several Catholic institutions indicate an even faster rate of growth there, with the Muslim student population generally doubling over the past decade, and the number of Muslim women tripling or more.