Salatiga, Central Java, Indonesia

The story of Fiona, a non-Muslim student studying at UIN Salatiga

The story of Fiona, a non-Muslim student studying at UIN Salatiga

Fiona’s story opened our eyes to the openness and inclusiveness of Universitas Islam Negeri (UIN) Salatiga in accommodating non-Muslim students. How does UIN Salatiga bridge differences and create a fair learning environment for all? UIN Salatiga is not only a place of learning but has a vision to develop a campus culture that reflects Islamic wasathiyah values, namely becoming a center for the nobility of Islamic moderation, a center for the nobility of science, technology and arts, as well as the nobility of human dignity. This value is applied by embracing diversity by opening wide doors for non-Muslim students. Fiona is one of them. She is a Protestant Christian student from Tanah Toraja, South Sulawesi.

After graduating from high school, Fiona (19) applied to study at various campuses, but always failed. One day, he received a story from a junior high school teacher that an Islamic campus in Salatiga was opening admissions to non-Muslim students. The teacher assured that even though the campus had an Islamic nuance, many non-Muslim students studied there. Fiona was convinced and started discussing with her parents about her chosen place of study. Initially, Fiona’s father was hesitant because his child had to study at an Islamic campus where the majority of people were Muslims. Fiona’s parents still have doubts. Until finally, when the campus held a virtual meeting with prospective non-Muslim students, he invited his father and mother to hear directly from the campus.

“At that time, we held a zoom with the Head of International Cooperation Center (PKSI) under Research and Community Service Institution (LP2M) and the vice chancellor of UIN Salatiga. I was accompanied by my parents so I could listen to the explanation from the campus for myself. Then we chatted to see if we really wanted to go to college and what the future would look like. “Praise God, parents allow it as long as they maintain their beliefs,” said Fiona to NU Online, Saturday (23/12/2023). Since she was still in high school, this young woman admitted that she had fallen in love with ICT subjects. According to her, science has broad career prospects, so she chose the Information Technology and Digital Business Program, a new major at UIN Salatiga. Not only participating in the learning process, but Fiona also actively participates in a community in her study program.

Fiona admitted that she was lucky during her studies, she received a scholarship from Indonesia, She got this information from Kota Kinabalu, which is in Sabah, Malaysia, then it is collaborated with UIN Salatiga. Economic limitations were not an obstacle for here to study at university and achieve her dreams.

An unexpected experience studying at an Islamic campus. Fiona took Islamic religion courses at UIN Salatiga, namely monotheism and Arabic. Fiona admitted that she also received religious material from various perspectives. The lecturer who teaches this course often gives explanations about universal values in almost every religion. “We are taught things about Islam that are still relevant to our teachings,” She explained. Not only adjustments in terms of the learning process, Fiona admitted that she got space for activities. Even at the start of college, she attracted the attention of other students because she did not wear the hijab like other Muslim female students.

Even though she has different beliefs, Fiona can still study comfortably and does not face discrimination. “Treatment between students, lecturers and teaching staff is very fair,” said this first semester student. Fiona admitted that she was happy to be treated the same as Muslim students and learned a lot about the Islamic religion, culture and traditions adhered to. This opened up new thoughts and insights for her, that Islamic teachings also teach good things in interacting with others regardless of religion. “Thank God, everyone is open, friendly and able to welcome and show mutual respect, tolerance and concern for others,” she said. She didn’t only get fair treatment from campus, t6he residence he lives in also upholds tolerance. Campus rules require scholarship students to live in a dormitory or Islamic boarding school.

Fiona chose to live at the Muhammadiyah Plus Salatiga Dormitory. In the dormitory, Fiona was never stressed about wearing a headscarf like other students. “I got the Indonesian Smart-College Card (KIP-K) scholarship, so I had to live in a boardinghouse. Praise God, my dormitory upholds tolerance – there is no requirement to study the Qur’an or other studies. “We are also not stressed about wearing a headscarf,” explained Fiona.

The Chancellor of UIN Salatiga, Prof. Zakiyuddin Baidhawy, said that the presence of non-Muslim students adds to the diversity at UIN Salatiga. UIN Salatiga holds washatiyyah values, one of which is how this campus can become an inclusive campus, namely being able to accommodate young Indonesians from all ethnicities to study. “We are committed to help students’ learning process optimally,” he said. Non-Muslim Students at State Islamic Religious College (PTKIN) is now open to non-Muslim students. The Director of Islamic Higher Education at the Ministry of Religion, Ahmad Zainul Hamdi, asked PTKIN, which already accepts non-Muslim students, to treat them proportionally. This was conveyed by Ahmad Zainul Hamdi to the Deputy Chancellors of PTKIN for Academic Affairs in Focus Discussion Group (FGD) in Makassar. According to the man who is familiarly called Inung, the PTKIN leadership who opened the door to accept non-Muslim students must change their mentality to be more open in applying the education system to them according to existing regulations. The professor at UIN Sunan Ampel Surabaya explained that if you have the courage to accept non-Muslim students to study on campus, you must have an open mindset and treat them fairly. “Don’t apply rules to non-Muslim students following educational requirements on campus, for example having to memorize the Al-Qur’an juz 30. If they take general study programs, then provide religious education according to their religious beliefs as regulated in the National Education System Law,” stressed Inung, quoted by NU On line. Including matters of clothing, non-Muslim female students are not forced to wear the hijab. “Okay, they are not allowed to wear short skirts, singlets, open clothes you can see, or anything inappropriate, but they should not be forced to wear the hijab,” he said. “Treat them to dress according to a code of ethics based on public civility, which is important to be polite and appropriate in our society,” he said.