Welcoming Muslim students and communities
Making space for prayer rooms for Muslim students was a very visible step taken by the University of St. Thomas a couple years ago. And a recent Augsburg College faculty resolution of support for Muslim students, colleagues and neighbors is another important statement. These are just two of many kinds of concrete actions private colleges are taking to clearly welcome Muslim students and community members.
Ensuring that everyone feels at home at a college should not be newsworthy. But anti-Muslim actions and attitudes have been a growing concern nationwide — and here as well. In fact, one group of local community leaders (including two of our presidents) recently signed onto a newspaper ad saying that Minnesotans “know better than to be silent or still in the face of bigotry shown to Muslims...we must lead people to a place of tolerance and understanding.”
Here are examples of steps private nonprofit colleges are taking to affirm the role and contributions of Muslim Minnesotans:
- Lutherans and Islam: Gustavus Adolphus College hires Muslim spiritual adviser
- Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota: Excerpts from a statement to the University community
- At University of St. Thomas, Catholics and Muslims find common ground
- In Word and Deed: Augsburg College in Support of Muslim Students, Colleagues, Neighbors
- Hamline University: More Minnesota colleges are hiring advisers to work with Muslim students
Lutherans and Islam: Gustavus Adolphus College hires Muslim spiritual adviser
by Mila Koumpilova
Ailya Vajid has kept busy since arriving on the Gustavus Adolphus College campus in St. Peter, Minn., last fall. She launched a new Muslim student association, regular Friday prayers and an “Ask a Muslim” panel.
The liberal-arts college affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) might seem like an unlikely workplace for Vajid, its new Harvard Divinity School-educated Muslim spiritual adviser. But campus leaders say Vajid will play a key role both in supporting its growing Muslim student body and sparking eye-opening conversations about faith.
Gustavus is sharing Vajid with St. Paul’s Macalester and Northfield’s Carleton colleges. Meanwhile, Minneapolis-based Augsburg College, another ELCA school, also hired a Muslim spiritual adviser last fall...
“We really feel it’s important for our college to support the faith practices and faith journeys of all of our students, and that includes our Muslim students,” said Siri Erickson, the campus chaplain.
Excerpts from a statement to the University community
by Brother William, President
The commencement ceremonies held on the Twin Cities Campus over the Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend provided me the opportunity to offer my reflections about current events: the thousands of migrants around the world presently seeking a better life; the precarious vulnerability of our Muslim sisters and brothers in the face of so much negative rhetoric; the sadness and growing frustration of many of our black colleagues and students around the nation; and the “sacred trust” inherent in bearing arms, both at home and abroad, to ensure freedom, safety, peace, and domestic tranquility...
I join my voice to that of other university presidents in our area in stating, ‘At a time of deeply troubling anti-Muslim rhetoric...we at (Saint Mary’s) reiterate our welcome...and unwavering support’ to Muslims as valued members of our community.
At University of St. Thomas, Catholics and Muslims find common ground
Amid deep Catholic roots, St. Thomas makes room for Muslims to practice their faith
by Maura Lerner
Dark-haired young men started arriving about 12:30 p.m., piling their backpacks and coats in the narrow hallway. One by one, they slipped off their shoes and darted into an “ablution station” for ritual washing. Then they filed silently into room 302 of Loras Hall.
For the first time in its 128-year history, the University of St. Thomas has its own Islamic prayer rooms, as well as ritual washing stations for observant Muslims.
The prayer rooms, which opened in September , reflect the surging number of students from Middle Eastern countries flocking to the Catholic university in St. Paul...
“Yes, we are a Catholic school,” said Karen Lange, the dean of students, “but I think this shows that we’re also a diverse place, and we’re welcoming of students from all faiths.”
In addition, the University of St. Thomas recently released a statement of solidarity with Muslim students, issued by President Julie Sullivan. She wrote that “at a time of deeply troubling anti-Muslim political rhetoric in American society, we at the University of St. Thomas reiterate our welcome to Muslims as members of our community, our gratitude for the many contributions that Muslims make to our community, and our unwavering support especially for our many Muslim students.” Read the full statement and to see the growing list of student, faculty and staff members who have signed on as well.
In Word and Deed: Augsburg College in Support of Muslim Students, Colleagues, Neighbors
by Sinda Nichols
The Sisterhood Boutique is a second-hand clothing store and youth social entrepreneurship program developed by young women, a majority East African and Muslim, living in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood of Minneapolis. The young women describe the project on their website: “Participants [in this youth social entrepreneurship program] decided they wanted to build something positive for other girls and women in the neighborhood, and the Sisterhood Boutique was born. Young women involved with the program are learning a variety of personal and professional skills from business development to event planning.”...
Augsburg College, just across the street from the Sisterhood, has been an ally from the start. The advocacy of Mary Laurel True, Director of Service Learning and Community Engagement, resulted in Fairview Hospital’s donation of a storefront location. The academic civic engagement of students at the college includes Professor Marc Isaacson’s MIS e-commerce course. In addition to working with other organizations like the Somali Youth League, Isaacson’s students consulted with the Sisterhood’s youth to pitch digital marketing tools, including website, social media, and video strategies that could expand the store’s reach and fundraising capacity.
More Minnesota colleges are hiring advisers to work with Muslim students
by Mila Koumpilova
Colleges are responding both to the enrollment growth and “the higher profile of Muslims in the American consciousness,” says Sohaib Sultan of the Association of Campus Muslim Chaplains.
“Our students need to know how to exist in a religiously plural world, and that’s one of the gifts Muslim chaplains bring,” said the Rev. Kate Smanik of the National Association of College and University Chaplains...
At Hamline, Muslim Student Association President Nadia Almosawi said [Nur] Mood [coordinator of religious and spiritual life programs] encouraged her to hang in there when she felt overwhelmed juggling classes and an internship. He’s a “student adviser, a personal therapist and a life coach” for Muslim and non-Muslim students, she said, dispensing advice on job hunting and faith-related questions, such as what to do if a class conflicts with Friday prayer: Prayer is important, he tells students, but so is education.