Muslim families are sending their children to Catholic colleges in record numbers, new reports state. One reason could be the level of acceptance provided by fellow religious students, while another could be strict adherence to religious tenets.
"Here, people are more religious, even if they're not Muslim, and I am comfortable with that," Mai Alhamad told The New York Times. She is a practicing Muslim who chose to enroll at the University of Dayton, which is a Roman Catholic school.
"I like the fact that there's faith, even if it's not my faith, and I feel my faith is respected," added Maha Haroon, who is a student at Creighton University. "I don't have to leave my faith at home when I come to school."
There are approximately 244 Catholic universities and colleges in the United States, according to the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities. While a majority of students at these schools are themselves Catholic, a growing trend highlighted by a New York Times collaborative study shows that students of all religious beliefs are taking comfort in the religious institutions.
Catholic schools tend to be built on faith-based traditions and beliefs, and institute those practices in their teaching and community. Students of religious minorities are finding comfort in the freedom to practice religion without fear of persecution that may come from a more secular institution, heads of schools reported.
"I thought it would be a better fit for me, more traditional, a little more conservative," Shameela Idrees, a student at Marymount University, explained.
For their part, the schools have worked to include a culture of diversity and acceptance. Many have set aside areas for Muslim students to pray and work with halal meat suppliers for special events, so as to include everyone at the meal.
"There's no conscious effort [to recruit Muslim students]," said Rev. Kail Ellis of Villanova University. "It's basically something that happened through word of mouth and reputation."
The "Muslim student population" has doubled over the past decade, with the "number of Muslim women tripling or more," according to The Times.