Muslim Students Address Diversity & Inclusion at Seattle U

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. It is a time when Muslims engage in fasting, prayer, community and reflection. A significant part of Ramadan is the fast-breaking meal each night after the sun goes down, called Iftar. At Seattle University, Iftar serves as an opportunity for students to honor God and build community with other Muslims. Students also shared experiences about being Muslim at a Catholic university and potential efforts the university can make to better include non-Catholic students. 

Maka Yusuf, a first-year forensic psychology major who attended events hosted by the Muslim Student Association (MSA), has found enjoyment at the events.

“I haven’t been able to connect with the Muslim community at Seattle U because it is hard to find people similar to me. The club has helped me find my community, which I am beyond appreciative of,” Yusuf said. 

Yusuf opened up about the struggles Muslim students face by identifying the shortcomings at the institutional level. She has felt a lack of visibility from the school itself.

“There are certain things about this school that I haven’t felt okay with, but I’ve spoken out about it and nobody does anything,” Yusuf said. “I feel as if the school isn’t very accommodating of Muslim students, but the staff and professors are. Seattle U doesn’t have [enough] financial resources or assistance.” 

Yusuf is appreciative of previous faculty efforts but does not believe they are enough. She discussed potential strategies the university could implement to alleviate the struggle Muslim students face on campus. 

“The school has made a single announcement and hasn’t checked on us since,” Yusuf said. “The university can share more awareness and provide more resources for Muslim students.”

Yusuf made some suggestions as to how the school could improve the experience of Muslim students. She explained that some Muslim students are not able to use the UREC facilities on campus due to religious restrictions. 

“They [Seattle University] can dedicate rooms for Muslims to fast together, or they could allow us to use the UREC for a few hours a week for the sisters to feel comfortable using the same resources that we can’t use due to restrictions,” Yusuf said. “I feel we could all benefit from sitting down and genuinely asking the school what they do for the Muslim students.”

Rabiya Fatima is a business analytics master’s student at Seattle U who has attended one event hosted by the MSA and thoroughly enjoyed it.

“It was a wonderful experience to meet so many new people from the same cultural background and to stand in congregation with my fellow students to pray,” Fatima said.

Fatima wants the university to designate a room for prayer, citing challenges in finding available spaces. She acknowledges that the school has an interfaith prayer room but feels that it isn’t adequate.

As Muslims, we are required to pray five times a day, and sometimes I have to pray twice during my class hours. Usually, I try to find an empty classroom to pray, but if there isn’t one available, I end up praying in the corridors,” Fatima said. “I would really appreciate it if the university could assign a small area or room in each building for prayer to make it more convenient for us.”

Other Muslim students echo Fatima’s desire for prayer spaces and other accommodations for Muslim students. Khalid Hirsi, first-year finance major at Seattle U, discussed how the university can improve Muslim students’ experiences.

“There are several ways that universities can improve the experiences for Muslim students, such as providing halal food options, creating designated prayer spaces and providing support for students during Ramadan,” Hirsi wrote to The Spectator. 

Hirsi has experienced obstacles participating in Ramadan whilst being a student-athlete.  

“Balancing track, practice and academic responsibilities can be challenging especially during Ramadan when fasting and prayer are also important aspects of my daily routine,” Hirsi wrote. 

Muslim students at Seattle U face unique challenges, including during Ramadan. However, the month gives students a chance to glorify God as well as reflect and be with community. This year, Ramadan ends at sundown April 21, marked by the celebration of Eid al-Fitr. During the first three days of the 10th month of the Muslim calendar, Muslims get together for communal prayer, visit friends and give gifts.