Home Education Challenges Faced by Muslim Students as they Study in the West – 2020 Guide

Challenges Faced by Muslim Students as they Study in the West – 2020 Guide

by Isabel Updegraff

Education has been considered as the key to success from time immemorial. With so many factors remaining dependant on the level of education that you attain, it is no wonder that students all over the world are constantly trying to pursue their academic journey in different countries. In recent years, there has been a great increase in the enrolment of Muslim international students in higher education institutions in the West. Not only are the institutions in the West considered better, attaining a degree from this region of the world is considered prestigious. It seems to create more opportunities for students. Traditional Western countries like the US and the UK have been known to attract a great number of international students. This is because institutions in this region have a great reputation for world-class research, and academics and employers recognize the degrees from higher education institutions in this region all over the world. Muslim students get the opportunity to cultivate their skills, critical thinking, knowledge, and wonderful connections that can help them drive their careers forward. Unlike in the past where a Muslim student had to face endless challenges trying to meet the academic standards, there also great opportunities to get help from a well-recognized and trustworthy essay writing services provider like Peachy Essay which is based in the region. In this article, we seek to explore the challenges that Muslim students face as they pursue their education in the West.

Like other international students, Muslim students are exposed to a wide range of challenges as they pursue their education. The trends of internalization and globalization have led to an increase in the number of Muslim students that cross their borders into the West and has made it easier to identify some of these challenges. Students pursue international education to learn new cultures, improve their cross-cultural knowledge and skills, make new friends, and find out new ways of thinking. Although this may seem like an enjoyable adventure, there are many obstacles, and it seems like Muslim students need to work harder before they can finally graduate with an accolade. Since international education is associated with many personal benefits, the Muslim students that study in the West may feel more confident, an increased sense of self-esteem, and an ability to make better decisions as a result of their independent life experiences in a diverse culture. It is important to note that institutions that do not address the unique needs of Muslim students may leave the students feeling disappointed, exploited, and even dissatisfied. Many of these students move to the West with great expectations and the strong sense that the experience should be better than in their home country. Let us now visit some of the common challenges that Muslim students face in Western countries by first understanding what it means to be a Muslim.

What is Islam?

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With over 1.6 billion Muslims scattered across a vast geography, Islam is the second fastest organized and growing religion in the world. Muslims believe in the existence of only one God (Allah). In Islam, one is expected to surrender to the will of Allah. Muslims, in turn, use the word Allah to refer to the God of all humanity and read and believe in the teachings that are contained in a sacred book known as the Quran. This book is considered as the ultimate foundation of all Islam ideologies and beliefs. The religion is made up of five pillars which include; Faith in one God (Eman); Praying five times a day (Salat); Charity (Zakat); Fasting in the holy months (Swam); Holy Pilgrimage (Haj). Despite the fact that the pillars are the same for all Muslims, there are different cultural backgrounds, sects, and nationalities epitomized within Islam. Many of the Muslims also follow different traditions and customs. People that believe in Islam observe it as their whole way of life. These practices are not common in the West, and there is likely to be challenging when Muslim students move to such countries to pursue their studies. In Western countries, students that abide by Islam face the following challenges:

What are the Challenges Faced by Muslim Students in the West?

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As you pursue your higher education degree, there are some unique sets of challenges that you are likely to experience. Apart from working hard to ensure that you score good grades in your various units, you will also need to adapt and manage your time well, especially when you need to balance more than one activity. When it comes to Muslim students studying in the West, there are some unique sets of challenges that they usually go through because of their nature and choice of life. Despite the fact that they come from different countries with varying cultures and customs, all Muslim students share a common religious practice that exposes them to a set of challenges as demonstrated below:

Adjusting to culture

Muslim students travel thousands of miles to the West, which means that they are likely to lose their sense of belonging. The demands of the new culture may be completely different in many aspects from their home cultures, and the new way of life may be entirely different from what they have been used to in their nations of origin. Getting used to the new environment, social norms, character traits, and even the culinary can be extremely difficult, especially in the first few years. Adjusting to a new culture has been seen to impact the educational performance of Muslim students significantly. Students from other countries will likely face problems trying to adjust. When getting used to the new cultures, the students need to deal with interpersonal relationships, signs and symbols of social interactions, and different value systems. Muslim students also face additional problems when entering the new culture since they are likely to face a lack of familiarity with their religious beliefs and practices as well as anti-Muslim sentiments in their respective institutions.

Being isolated

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The fact that the Muslim students come from different countries in itself brings about a unique set of challenges, including social isolation. When entering a new environment, Muslim students tend to feel lonely. This is because they are no longer in contact with familiar friends, they are exposed to a new culture, they experience an absence of a social network, and they are likely to experience homesickness. Muslim students, in turn, need support systems, including social support, positive peer group relationships, and social connectedness to thrive in such an environment. It isn’t easy to maintain a Muslim identity in such an environment, and it is common for some of them to decide to go back to their home countries. In order to succeed in school, Muslim students need a greater amount of support. If the institutions of higher learning fail to provide a support system, most of the students that adhere to Islam are likely going to drop out or perform poorly in comparison to their peers. The major issue is that most of the institutions in the West tend to pay more attention to the educational needs of the students and fail to put into consideration other critical factors that are likely to affect the achievement and failure of this group in a different environment.

Educational and religious discrimination

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The performance of students ailing from the Islam religion is significantly affected by several factors, for example, gender, race, study time, educational aspirations, as well as the institution type. Academic success has also been linked to factors such as ethnicity. Negative attitudes towards Muslim students by other individuals within the environment can, therefore, greatly impact their performance. Misconceptions about the Muslim community as well as cultural differences from the rest of the students can also negatively influence the educational experience of this group of students. Many individuals have a negative perception of Islam. The students are therefore considered inferior or even associated with some practices such as terrorism which leads to them performing poorly. This kind of misunderstanding in a new environment can lead to numerous new challenges at all levels of learning and impact academic performance negatively. When the students fail to fit into the system simply because of their religion, it is apparent that they will not be able to interact with others comfortably meaning they will be unable to enjoy their life in a foreign country.

Lack of proper communication

As you pursue your studies, it is apparent that communication will play a huge part in how well or poorly, you will be able to cope in the new environment. International problems and especially Muslim students always face the problem of communication due to a number of reasons including language, culture, and poor social interactions, especially in cases where they are considered inferior. Language barriers in an international setting do affect not only the educational performance of Muslim students but also the way that they interact with their peers and lecturers. Depending on the country of origin, this problem extends to activities such as essay and research paper writing which is an important mode of assessment, especially at the college or university level. Some of the students are not able to convey their message using the appropriate language of the host country, which can have negative impacts on performance. Although some of the Muslim students share a common culture, the language barrier is challenging since they will need extra help from the university administration to accommodate their religious practices, which may not always be available. The students have different problems trying to communicate with the institution about their unique needs since very few individuals are likely to understand the major practices of their religion.

Dress codes

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Islam is considered a very strict religion in most countries, and it essentially dictates the way followers dress. Muslim students, especially females, are required to cover the body parts. Male Muslim students are expected to cover their bodies from the shoulder downwards to the knees while the female students are required to cover the entire body apart from the hands and face. Students that choose to pursue their studies in the West face problems related to their holy dressing because the culture in these countries is different. The students, especially females, experience discrimination from the rest simply because of the way that they dress. In the modern world, it also becomes tempting for them to go against their religion and dress like the rest of the students, which means that they need to sin to fit into the school.

Exposure to alcohol and other drugs

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In Islam, consumption of alcohol and other types of drugs is prohibited in most cases since they believe that it reduces your ability to obey the teachings of the religion. When it comes to Western universities and colleges, this is not prohibited, and students are allowed the freedom to make their own choices given that they do not break the law under the influence of drugs and alcohol. Muslims are also supposed to eat some type of foods that are considered halal and may not be available in most Western institutions. Muslim students usually feel uncomfortable in an environment where alcohol is served. In most universities, most gatherings and parties usually involve the consumption of alcohol and even indecent exposure which can have a great effect on the Muslim students. In such conditions, this special group of students end up feeling socially lonely from their peers owing to the fact that they have limited options for entertainment. As such, Muslim students tend to isolate themselves from their peers during their academic journey, which is harmful to their social health.

Lack of proper accommodation

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One of the biggest challenges for Muslim students in Western countries is their need for, and lack of specific accommodations that allow them to carry out their religious practices on university campuses. The lack of prayer spaces, dietary allocations, and the total ignorance of Islamic holidays can be extremely challenging. In Islam, individuals are expected to pray five times a day at specific hours and in separate spaces for male and female students. Students are hence forced to search for suitable spaces to pray. The lack or misuse of private spaces on campus contributes to uneasiness and nervousness among the Muslim students, which also impacts their ability to cope in the new environment. The inability to perform religious practices leads to high-stress levels and troubled students who can barely concentrate. Because of the differences in beliefs and culture, Western universities never really try to aid the students, which is even more challenging. Other individuals on campus, especially students, lack an understanding of the Islam culture and end up discriminating against students that abide by the religion. This has a negative impact on the performance of Muslim students.

Education has gradually evolved over the years and has seen an increase in the number of students that travel to study abroad. Due to the good reputation of the Western education system, an increased number of Muslim students have taken the opportunity to travel abroad and study in reputable institutions in Western countries. Unfortunately, this has brought about a great number of challenges which are religious, cultural, and communication associated. As seen above, Muslim students in the West face a significant amount of these challenges and need to adapt if they are to become successful in their studies. Muslim students should also remember that they can always rely on a dependable academic help company like Peachy Essay in case they are overwhelmed by the various challenges that they encounter. Not only will such a company help them to do well in their academic papers, but will also allow them the time to invest in finding solutions to the challenges that they are exposed to in their journey.

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