It’s no surprise that approximately 98% of students at Brigham Young University are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints however, what you likely do not know, is that there are Muslim students, about 44 this year. Many are international students, some hailing from Palestine, Egypt and Jordan.
James Toronto is associate professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies, and says that the history of the Mormon church “makes us really aware of… people who are seen as marginally American by others, as maybe not fitting in, as being ‘the other.'” Church members know about “that struggle to find our place in the broader polity and society, and so I think there’s a lot of empathy for other minority groups who are going through that same struggle.”
BYU is said to be a place of openness as nearly half of students have lived abroad, and two-thirds speak a second language – thanks, in part, to the missionary trips so many serve. There is also an Honor Code which prohibits alcohol, drugs, premarital sex, and immodest dress both on campus and off which puts many Muslim students (and their parents ) at ease.
Nada Almassry, a sophomore from Egypt, says the draw for BYU was their Business program and the reasonable tuition (which is $11,240 this year for non-church members). She also appreciates BYU’s Honor Code atmosphere. “This actually helps [me] meet people. … Some people are curious, some people want to learn Arabic, some people are just like ‘As-salām ‘alaykum’ [Peace be upon you]!”