Muslim students find their own space at Seton Hall


The Muslim Student Association works to raise understanding surrounding Islamic culture. Photo courtesy of Rawda Abdelmenam.

Seton Hall, while being a Catholic school, is home to students of various religions, including those who practice Islam.

According to the Seton Hall website, the University strives to meet the spiritual needs of all students, regardless of faith, as there are a number of students who are Jewish, Muslim, Protestant, Hindu, and Buddhist, among other religions.

Ali H. Aljarrah, a freshman diplomacy and international relations major of Islamic faith, explained that while the university is a Catholic school, it didn’t deter him from attending.

He said that he chose to become a Pirate because it offered a great diplomacy and international relations program.

He added that he has never felt out of place attending a Catholic university because of the similarities between Islam and Catholicism.

Rawda Abdelmenam, a junior special education and speech language pathology major and vice president of the Muslim Student Association (MSA), said seeking knowledge, whether secular or spiritual, is obligatory for every Muslim.

“It is important that as people of God we seek and understand other people’s faiths and if we truly love one another then we must understand each other in our similarities and differences, which is one of the reasons why Islam and Catholicism are similar and how Catholic teachings at SHU do not conflict with students’ faith,” Abdelmenam said.

Aljarrah said that the way people define being religious differs from person to person.

“I’m religious in the sense that I do believe in God and I do follow the faith of Islam, but I do my best to improve my spirituality with God,” Aljarrah said. “I try to go out of my way to learn more about the religion other than what was taught to me by my parents and what was taught to me by the mosque.”


Photo via An illustration of the Islam star and crescent.

Even if an individual is not religious, a Seton Hall student can learn about different religions through reading texts and discussing them in classes like Journey of Transformation, Christianity and Dialogue and Engaging the World, while asking and discussing universal ideas and questions.

“With the students and professors in my Journey class, I think seeing an actual Muslim like myself, in a class who understands the religion, is able to compare and contrast the differences between Islam and Catholicism,” Aljarrah said.

Aljarrah added that while he is Muslim, his experience has been nothing less than normal while attending SHU.

Dr. Wagdy Abdallah, a professor of accounting and taxation and faculty advisor of MSA, said he wants to make Muslim students feel at home at Seton Hall as it continues to significantly accommodate students practicing a non-Catholic religion.

Additionally, students who practice Islam or want to become informed about the religion and cultures involved, can get involved in MSA on campus.

The club is an inter-religious and inter-cultural organization that works to raise consciousness, dialogue and understanding about Islamic culture and religion.

While Aljarrah is usually too busy throughout the school day to pray, students who practice Islam can be accommodated on campus to pray through programs set up by MSA.

In a recent initiative, MSA has coordinated to have Friday Muslim Prayer in Duffy Hall at 1 p.m. every Friday throughout the semester.

MSA also hosts several interfaith events and discussions on the topic of Islam and integration.

Abdelmenam said that MSA represents Muslims at SHU and while it is a Muslim organization, their mission is the same as everyone that surrounds them on-campus, which is to improve the lives of everyone within.

“Oftentimes being Muslim is synonymous with being alone. You are the only one of your faith at your school, in your town, or even the entire community you grew up with,” Abdelmenam added. “MSA was conceived in order to unite Muslims from all ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds and create a community as important and impactful as those that surround it.”

Nisha Desai can be reached at

Author: Nisha Desai

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1 Comment

  1. We must try to understand people who aspire but may have different beliefs, customs, and religions. Education and dialogue are essential in breaking down “old” stereotypes. I salute the writer for writing this important post which will benefit our entire Seton Hall community. All the best to our Muslim Student Association members. And of course, Go Pirates!

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