SEP TEMBER 1 1, 200 1
the beauty of being in America, being an
American citizen and now, by wearing it,
I'm kind of putting myself in danger or
being pressured to remove it."
T heir own faith reflected
Muslim. students make up a tiny per-
centage of the religions represented on
campus. One percent of the 1,500 fresh-
men who completed the annual survey of
first-year students in 1999 identified
themselves as Muslims. In contrast, 79
percent declared their afEliation to some
form of Christianity; 14 percent indicated
no religious preference.
But the Islamic presence on campus is
growing larger. In the 15 years that Syed 1.
Mustafa, clinical instructor in the division
of medical sciences, has been the faculty
adviser to the MSA, he has seen the group
grow from 15 or 20 active members to
50, with more than 65 people regularly
attending Friday prayers in the UNC
Hospitals chapel. Not everyone
participates, and he estimates the actual number
of Muslim students to be at least 400.
Mostafa Abdallah, a sophomore study-
ing biomedical engineering, e:hrpects the
number will rise. Abdallah moved to
Cary from Miann in the 10th grade and
served as an officer of the MUSlinl student
group at Cary High School - there were
only 10 or 15 members at that time, he
said. Now, he said, more than 30 students
belong to Cary High's Muslim organization."And those people will be coming
to college in a few years."
When Mu tafa arrived at UNC, many
of the practicing Muslirns were international
students. Now they are more likely to have
been born and raised in the United States.
Is it a challenge to be a practicing Muslim. at a large Southern university with a
predominandy Christian population?Yes
and no, the students say Many say they find
it pleasant to be a part of a community
where people have questions about their
faith and where tbey bave the opportunity
to educate. In contrast, those wbo have
lived where dlere is a larger lslannc pres-
ence, such as Berkeley or parts of Michigan, have found the Chapel Hill locals to
No" " " be r / Dec c m ber 2 aa I
(Sometimes if someone~
looking at me in a certain way,
Ijust have a conversation in my
mind. I know that they're
thinking that I'm oppressed
and I cookfor my dad and my
husband beats me and I don't
know what else. Sometimes
on campus, people, even adults
will say, ((You speak such good
English."And I'm like,
((Thanks, I was born here.'"
be more blase about religious differences.
Following the tenets of Islam means
that Muslim students experience Carolina
somewhat differently from their non-M Llslim counterparts. Islam requires prayer
five times a day, forbids drinking, disallows
dating and - to some extent - any nlin-
gling of the sexes beyond what is necessary
to carry out the responsibilities of d1e class-
room. There can, be some pressure to con-
form to a code ofstudent life in which the
things forbidden to Muslims are central.
Most of the time, Zayed says, his non-MUSlinl friends are understanding and
willing to find ways other than parties,
bars and double-dates to have a good
time with him, such as getting together
for a game of tennis or going out to din-
ner with a group. But some can't accept
the limitations he puts on himself to
remain true to Ins faith.
"I've had friends, they don't understand,
'Why can't you do dill? Everyone on cam-
pus is doing it,' and, in fact, there are other
Muslims on canlpus who are doing these
things. Ifdley won't understand, most of
dlese relationships ... break down.
"It's very; very hard to alienate yourself
to avoid breaking the foundations of YOllI
religion because that's something you
hold very close to your heart - but YOLl
also don't want to lose your friends.YoLl
want to be a good friend, and you want
to enjoy your time with them."
Jt can be a challenge to find time for
all the 10- to 15-nUnute, five-times-a-day
prayers in a student schedule packed with
classes, exams and late nights. "The hard-
est tbing is to get up before sunrise and
offer your prayers," Abdallah said -
especially after being up until all hours study-
ing for exams.
Completing the daily routine of
prayers also involves scrambling for locations to say them. The MSA reserves a