Muslim Students Strive for Inclusiveness

GREENSBORO -- More Muslims than ever are enrolled in North Carolina’s state schools.

While the system is home to a diverse student body made up of nearly 220,000 students, the growing Islamic population is struggling to fit in.

UNC Greensboro’s Muslim Student Association says it has seen hundreds of new Muslim students from all over the world on campus since 2010.

"We have people from Turkey, people from Malaysia, we have people from Bosnia", said Ahmad Aljasser, UNCG MSA president.

But as the number of students who identify as Muslim rises, so does the number of challenges they can face.

“Some dirty looks, bad looks, sometimes comments,” Aljasser said.

First year doctoral student Ahmet Tanhan conducted a survey to gauge the concerns of fellow students.

“We have to provide an appropriate place and appropriate tools for people to have the best process and best experience at UNCG”, said Ahmet Tanhan.

About 94 percent of the 116 people who took the survey said practicing their religion is their top concern, yet only 21 percent are satisfied with their ability to worship on campus.

“It’s an obligation, a religious obligation,” said Tanhan.

His survey also found safety is on the minds of Islamic students.

“I had a number of young women, Muslim women in particular, that didn’t want to go out the next day after the Chapel Hill shootings,” said UNCG Associate Professor Omar Ali.

Despite the findings, Tanhan and fellow students continue hold a positive outlook.

“We are very happy to be here,” he said.

Tahnan says he plans to submit the results of his survery to university leadership to encourage more dialogue.