An International Students, Inc. Friendship Partner got an urgent call from their new Muslim student who asked them to come to his home quickly. They did so… only to find that the urgent need the student had was how to start the new boat he bought parked in the dock at his home. No, that is not a typical Muslim student problem, but it illustrates the extremes of Muslim student experiences in the U.S. The Friendship Partner did not have a boat parked at their home!
Muslim women often face significant culture shock and must learn how to culturally navigate in a complex set of circumstances: western culture vs. eastern, closed culture vs. open, mixed sexes in the classroom and at social gatherings, and Muslim vs. Christian vs. secular worldviews, to name a few. Sometimes Muslim men want to provide (unwanted) “protection” for Muslim women, which often means controlling their actions and friendships. Women who are used to high levels of modesty struggle with how to fit into an immodest culture on campus—and often don’t choose to spend much time with others on campus because of it.
Wealthy Muslims who feel entitled often struggle when confronted on campus with U.S. egalitarianism, the belief that all people are equal and deserve the same rights and opportunities. Sometimes, these students can feel as though the independent Americans are looking down on the Muslims (and sometimes they may be!). Working together on class projects can sometimes be difficult.
Certain Muslim countries have cultural monitors on campus. Functioning as students, but working for the government, these monitors report back home on the actions of fellow students. That is why the emphasis on public life vs. private life is important. Some Muslim men in private play into the “college freshmen” stereotype as they taste their first bit of total freedom—drinking in excess, being irresponsible, and carousing, partaking in things they never would at home.
The resulting cultural complications lead many Muslim students to hang out with each other and to rarely put themselves in situations where the clashes with their home culture can be viewed by others. Most Muslim students are open to accepting unconditional relationships with a small number of Americans. Inviting them into your home to visit and share a meal is seen as a significant open door to a friendship.
Many Muslim students face personal backlash on campus to terrorist acts. They live with an uneasy fear of a Muslim terrorist attack that will result in personal mistreatment by U.S. students.
Principles cited in this blog: New Muslim students face many adjustment issues to life in the U.S.; ISI staff and volunteers can help. Sensitivity to the plight of each individual student is helpful is determining best how to help. Women help women and men help men.
Application for ISI ministry: We have many points of intervention to help new Muslim students if they ask us to do so or respond to our offers of help. Praying for the students and living transparently before them are things the Spirit can use as a witness. Inviting students into our homes can be a significant bridge to a deeper relationship with the student.
Next blog topic: Issues Chinese students face returning home
Doug Shaw with Derrah Jackson