To My Muslim Friends: Know What You’re Getting Yourself Into

by Mohammed Al-Suraih - Posts (5). Posted Thursday, February 7th, 2013 at 2:42 pm

Muslim students at Rutgers University in New Jersey (Photo: AP)

Muslim students at Rutgers University in New Jersey (Photo: AP)

When I started the process of applying to undergraduate schools in the United States, I never thought about whether America would be a welcoming place for a young Muslim student. I read articles that talked about the diverse America, the melting pot America, and the land of dreams America.

I had conversations with friends who were already studying at American institutions; they reassured me that there was nothing for me to worry about.

When I received my acceptance letter from the College of St. Scholastica, a Catholic school in a very small town in northern Minnesota, I did not even look up how many Muslims go to the school.

But maybe I should have looked for these answers. Muslims have a lot of differences from Christians. Like Jews, Muslims are not supposed to eat pork, and we can only eat Halal meat. Halal meat is meat slaughtered or prepared in the manner specified by Islamic law. Muslims do not drink alcohol at all. We also pray five times a day between sunrise and late evening, and must be cleaned and showered before each prayer.

If you are studying in the States right now, look around and see if your campus is warm and welcoming to Muslim students. Is there an Islamic center or a mosque? How about even just a small prayer room? Does your cafeteria know that Muslims do not eat pork? How many special dishes for Muslims do they make for every meal? Let me help you by mentioning some food that contains pork: pepperoni pizza, sausage, hot dogs, ham.

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Yes, America is a very diverse country, but not every spot of it. Small towns are not as diverse as the big cities. There is no mosque in Duluth, only a small Islamic center that is sort of far from campus. Nor is there a place for Halal food in the city.

[Read more about campus accommodations for Muslim students]

My college, the College of St. Scholastica was very welcoming to me as a Muslim student. Staff and students were delightful and sympathetic. It is “Minnesota nice,” after all. However, Scholastica had only two Muslim faculty and three Muslim students at the time I started. So even though people were very nice to me, it was also very hard to readjust to this new environment.

People have little knowledge of Islam and Muslims, and I did not feel comfortable praying in public or when my roommates were around. As a result, I found it hard keeping up with my prayers.

It was quite shocking to some people here that I am 21 years old but do not consume alcohol. Significant numbers of college students expect you to drink or get drunk, and equate drinking with having fun. I never had problems explaining to people why I do not drink alcohol, or ordering soft drinks while attending parties, but it did create some tensions. It was also irritating to me that some people insisted that I should try eating pepperoni or ham, especially when there was no other meat option.

[Read more about Muslim experiences in the U.S.]

Did all of that affect or slow my transitioning to the new life in Duluth. Sure, it did. But do I regret coming to a Catholic school? No, not at all.

I now understand what it means to be a minority in the middle of nowhere. This experience has absolutely shaped the person am this moment, and I am indeed grateful for every second of it.

To my Muslim friends out there in the world, do your search and know what you’re getting into before coming to the United States of America.

7 Responses to “To My Muslim Friends: Know What You’re Getting Yourself Into”

  1. theredhogg says:

    I am sorry to learn you came to a foreign country to discover it was foreign to yours and to hear of your various food restrictions and rules seem more self imposed than practical, since none were based on allergic reasons. The fact that you don’t drink is not as uncommon in Americans as you’ve been lead to believe, for I don’t drink and its not some sort of amazing feat its just a decision one makes.

    I wish more Muslims would feel as uncomfortable as you did and leave America to be honest with you because somehow Muslims think the world must accommodate them yet they accommodate no one. How you you respond if I came to your country to school and made the same series of complaints, what should I expect from your country? Please let me know, let us all know what your country would do for the Catholic schooling in a Muslim school with your same needs?

    • Mohammed says:

      I completely agree with this comment. Too, Catholic and Christians are not the same religion based on the this one thing: Catholics think they have to do good deeds to be accepted into a life of eternity. Christians, or rather more proper, those who are disciples of Jesus, know that we do good works because we are already saved by faith in Jesus. That is, we believe we will enter eternity and live with Jesus because we believe in our hearts and confess with our mouth that we are sinners, need God, accept Jesus as God and then turn from our sins and selfish ways. To sum it up, we do good works to receive salvation, but because we have received salvation.

      Secondly, I couldn’t help but think of how it might be in a Muslim country as yours if I wanted to get me some ribs, pork ribs. I know that I wouldn’t be able to, but would know that it as because of the religious ways leading the country. I wouldn’t think your country was “messed” up because of that, I would just eat my other favorite meat, lamb. It might be helpful to know that I go to Halal markets to buy Halal lamb so I can have an opportunity to show the Muslim community where I live that I don’t judge them because they judge me for eating pork. And heaven, as Jesus said, isn’t about eating at all. So, to that, my Muslim friend, I think it best for us not to worry about who eats what and how horrible it must be for those who eat whatever we restrict ourselves from, but rather, let us not make our freedoms, to no eat or to eat specific things, become a yoke to be bore by others because we wear such yoke. Glad you to have met you on the page. Cheers!

      • Mohammed says:

        Serious typo correction, I meant to say, in regards to Christians: To sum it up, we do good works not to receive salvation, but because we already have received salvation.

      • Mohammed says:

        Typo correction, I meant to say: To sum it up, we do good works not to receive salvation, but because we have already received salvation.

  2. serpoush says:

    Good information and explain

  3. Bosnia says:

    This is to be experienced by anyone going to foreign countries when you don’t have similar culture traits. Even though I eat pork and many other western food and speak English fluently, I still feel different and not being fully adjusted when in America. It is to be expected otherwise stay home. Christians and others do not feel very comfortable in a muslim country or institution either, especially in these days of strife between religion-followers !

  4. Ali says:

    Me and Mohammed we grow up together and I always see him as older brother, life kept me so busy from him but after I read this I really miss u so much bro hope to see very soon I’m always proud of u keep our heads up with all your success

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