Questions for muslim applicants.

Discussion in 'Pre-Medical - MD' started by nooreen, Nov 30, 2002.

  1. nooreen

    nooreen Member

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    Hi everyone.

    I want to ask a question, specifically geared at muslim applicants. I also welcome anyone with input to comment.

    At any rate, I was more or less raised muslim, and this kind of thing came up in a couple of my interviews largely because of a study abroad that I did in Egypt. For whatever reasons, I am actually pretty insecure about the subject in general. I have pretty complicated views about most of the contemporary issues dealing with Islam (terrorism, war in Iraq, Palestine). Thus far, I have tried to steer my interviews toward other topics.

    However, I am curious to know how other practicing or non-practicing muslims address questions about Islam and related contemporary issues. I was also wondering if you have been fasting during interviews (I have not). Of course, this becomes a non-issue next week.

    --Nooreen
     
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  3. MD2b06

    MD2b06 Senior Member

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    Not a current applicant. Actually applied last year, and was thankfully accepted. My first interview was 10 days after 9/11. Being a Muslim, I was kinda paranoid around that time. I think that as long as you don't express any extreme views in regards to Islam, the war on terror, you'll be ok. You don't have to be a supporter of the war on Iraq to be accepted in the eyes of med schools. There are probably many ppl on adcoms that don't support a war either. On the other hand, you can't expect to be an overt bin Laden supporter and have them welcome you with open arms. Just try to be as neutral as you can be while still staying true to your beliefs, and you should be ok. Med schools know people of different backgrounds are going to hold different views. One of the things they're looking for is diversity, in life experience, in ideologies, etc.

    Thankfully, I wasn't interviewing during Ramadan. But if I was, I'd have fasted. Mind if I ask why you forego fasting during interviews?
     
  4. ramz

    ramz Banned
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    questions about religion r illegal!!! nevertheless, fellow international students from the middle east and other muslim regions face the possiblity of being asked such questions. usually it is because the interviewer is curious about the alien culture...but sometimes u can get an interviewer with a different agenda.
    in order to survive such a questioning...here is a list of what things i would do as an approach to illiminate the possibility of falling into an unwanted trap:

    1. restate the obvious and "good"
    e.g. what do u think of the arab-israeli conflict?....that part of the world is fascinating as it is the holy land and is thus rich in culture and treasure. it is unfortunate that political conflict has overwhelmed such a region and i am a believer in a peace coming soon.

    2. what do u think of islam in america?...the USA is a nation diverse in culture and islam is an example of one such culture and way of lfe blended in with a mix of others. i think that islam has added positively to the american way of life as it is proof of tolerance and respect.

    anyways...i could go on forever but tell me if u need more info.

    ciao
     
  5. Gleevec

    Gleevec Peter, those are Cheerios

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    If your views are very complicated about Islam, why not just go ahead and express then? The interviewer is much more likely to appreciate a well thought out, reasoned argument than some of the canned one-liners people are suggesting.
     
  6. ramz

    ramz Banned
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    because that would be a STUPID way of spoiling an interview...remember that we r in a post sep 11 era
     
  7. Gleevec

    Gleevec Peter, those are Cheerios

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    Yeah we are in a post-9/11 world. So you think being insincere and making one liners is going to impress adcoms more than actually stating what you think? I would figure that if nooreens views are as complicated as stated, nooreen would be able to impress others with a depth of knowledge and analysis others skirt over.

    I dont see how stating your views spoils an interview ramz, anymore so than your suggestion of being unfaithful to your views with a set of canned one-liners. At least you are intelligent and sincere if you do articulate your views...
     
  8. dr. deez

    dr. deez Senior Member

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    I am a non-muslim but must agree with ramz. controversial views are not necessarily wrong and unfounded... however one might be at a loss and fall into a political/geographical debate with the interviewer instead of focusing on your strengths as an applicant... which is what eveyone else gets a chance to do. such a discussion might not be good because our media is so slanted that people rarely go out of their way to think critically about what other factors might influence/or be affected in the global scheme. that's just my opinion... GOOD LUCK everyone!!! peace. :)
     
  9. Gleevec

    Gleevec Peter, those are Cheerios

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    I understand everyone's point and concern and can definitely see where people are coming from. It just seemed to me that you might show yourself to be a strong applicant by handling a very tough question way better than your peers through a flesh-out analysis of your beliefs. But I could see why people wouldnt want to do that either, I just thought it might be a boon to some applicants as current events knowledge seems to impress adcoms.
     
  10. pillowhead

    pillowhead Senior Member

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    I think you really just need to feel out the interviewer. I myself am Jewish. However, my father is Iranian and Jewish from birth and my mother is English and is a Jewish convert from Church of England. I was born in England, but obviously don't have an English last name nor do I look particularly English. More often than not, interviewers have asked about my origins when they see my conflicting last name/birthplace and ask questions. I don't like just saying oh it's Iranian because then people assume I'm Muslim. (Not that I don't want to appear Muslim because I think it's "bad" or something, but I want people to know who I am and not assume.)

    So what to do? At some interviews like at Univ. of Alabama and Medical College of GA where I didn't see much diversity and didn't really want to go into detail about a topic that many people don't really understand, I just tell people I'm English. If they keep asking (one interviewer would just not let up!), I just keep saying English. Just English. It's really not their business and will have no impact on my being a good student/doctor. And I hate dealing with completely idiotic comments at an interview where I'm already nervous and don't feel like having to deal with ignorant comments. (You're Iranian? You have to be Muslim. You're English? There are no Jews in England. :rolleyes:)

    On the other hand, if the interviewer seems more worldly, the school more diverse, etc, I'll go into it and explain. It usually leads to interesting conversation being that I'm Jewish and Iranian and so have a fairly unique take on Muslim-Jewish relations. On one occasion, the interviewer then proceeded to ask how I would solve the Arab-Israeli conflict. I told him I did not feel comfortable discussing that with him being that it is such an emotional topic, and I told him that. I also said I didn't want my views to be taken as representative of all Jews. He didn't seem to mind.

    Bottom line? Only tell them what you want to tell them. They don't need to know your religion to make a decision about you. If you feel comfortable telling them, do so. If you want to tell them you're Muslim but you don't feel comfortable answering personal or political questions, tell them that. If you're comfortable with the interviewer and enjoy discussing current events, do that. It's up to you. you are in control. don't avoid the topic because we're in "post 9/11 world" and don't bring it up just because med schools "like you to have a strong stance on tough issues." Because for Muslims and Jews, these are very personal questions (like asking about someone's sex life in my opinion), not just political questions. you have every right to be comfortable in an interview.
     
  11. crazyA

    crazyA Senior Member

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    Pillowhead's advice is great...

    I've been asked about Islam and current events related to Islam in 3 out of my 4 interviews. Like the previous poster said, if you feel uncomfortable about the question, say so. And if you are going to answer the question, be honest, and delineate your points clearly.

    For example, at my first interview, I was asked about whether or not I think Islam contributes to violence. I explained to the interviewer my view that if ones looks back in history, one will find that almost every religion to ever exist has been used to encourage violence, and that usually the actions of these people have more to do with politics/economics than they do with religion. My interviewer nodded their head, continued to take notes, and I was fortunate enough to get into the school.

    As for your question about fasting, I tried to schedule interviews away from Ramadhaan, but I do have one this Tuesday. Fasting affects me quite drastically, but since I don't have to travel much to get to the school, I plan to fast...there's no reason for me not to.
     
  12. PluckyDuk8

    PluckyDuk8 Pluck of all Plucks

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    Hi,
    I'm also Jewish...funny how we have the same problems. Either religion or current events have come up in every interview I have had. As much as I try, there has been no avoiding it. I studied abroad in Israel during the time there were problems in the region...my brother is a journalist who covers politics so inevitably when interviewers ask what my siblings do things come up. I thankfully feel comfortable answering questions but if I were you if I had to try to not answer a question I would make sure to do so in an appropriate way so it doesn't look like you don't know how to answer.
    About religion...if the school is religiously oriented, it may be to your advantageous to discuss religion if it comes up in conversation. For instance, I interviewed at Loyola, and when asked "why Loyola" one of my answers were that the religious are more tolerant of the religious and their needs. I think his reaction to that was very approving. I have since been accepted to Loyola so who knows...
    Best of luck to you in your interviews, and if it helps find a friend to practice these sometimes predictable questions.
     
  13. rat-tickler

    rat-tickler Junior Member

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    i think you raise some valid concerns in your posting.
     
  14. xoomn

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    Hey nooreen,
    As I have studied Islam as an outsider, the core of it indicates that if you are not practicing what Islam teaches then you are really not considered a moslem. You indicated that you were not secure about Islam and that you were more or less raised muslim. If you feel that it does not represent you in character, personality and appearance then step away from it. Conduct yourself in a manner that you think is appropriate. And mention to ADCOM that you were 'more or less raised as a moslem' but it does not reflect your way of life. HOpe that helps. :)
     
  15. nooreen

    nooreen Member

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    Hello All,

    Thanks for your input and Eid Sayeed. I think the core issues underlying my post have been addressed very well.

    Is the antagonism that I perceive in the "post 9-11" world real? It is hard to say. But Md2b06's 9-21-01 interview really puts this issue into perspective for me. Perhaps my concerns are just as irrational as the post asking wheter it is best to staple or tape photos to your application . . .

    At any rate, I'm glad to hear that many of you have addressed these and similar concerns, but are doing very well. I have had a positive experience discussing the question of war in Iraq (postive intellectually: I haven't heard the decision yet). I have experienced a few akward moments as well, which is why I posted. In light of your input, that probably could have been different if I were more concise, coherent, and at ease in my replies.

    Fasting: I personally consider my decision not to fast during interviews a weak one. Although I had a legitimate excuse for one of my interviews, I broke my fast because of travelling for the others. However, I generally do not consider air plane travel enough of a hardship to break my fast otherwise.

    I would also like to comment on xoomn's post: I'm glad to hear that you have studied islam, and I'd like to thank you for replying to my post.

    However, I actually found your advice somewhat insulting. I consider Islam to be a large part of who I am. More importantly, it is part of who I would like to be.

    Because of my ubringing, I consider myself neither an expert/authority on the religion nor a model muslim in terms of my personality, behavior, or appearance. I have a long road to go. However, my understanding of the religion is that belief is what determines whether or not one is a muslim. Belief is something I consider impossible to "step away" from.

    From your study of Islam, you should understand why I would be honored to tell an ADCOM that the religion reflects my way of life. In fact, I hope that I can say that about myself someday.

    Best,
    --Nooreen
     
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  17. Nirvana

    Nirvana Senior Member

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    I know I'm going to get a LOT of flack for this, but I'll go ahead and say it:

    If you're asked if you're Muslim, I would deny it. I don't know what I'd say (maybe "I don't ascribe to any religion, but I am a very spiritual person"). If the interviewer is a bigot, they won't care that you're a "liberal Muslim" or a "conservative Muslim". They're just going to hear the word "Muslim" and cross you off of the list and you'll never be able to prove it.

    The person who responded that it's 'none of their business' is correct (not to mention it's illegal). And on top of that, I would deny being Muslim because there's a LOT of prejudice in this country right now.

    There's one Islamic person in my class who, when that person walks into class, there are a bunch of guys who make comments about "terrorists" etc under their breath. The guys are both Jewish and Christian, so it's not just a "Jewish-Muslim" thing. I also don't think it takes any 1 type of person to be a bigot. These guys are just idiots who would be bigots no matter their religion.

    I hate to say to lie, but the interviewer should NOT be asking you any questions about religion to begin with. They deserve whatever answer you come up with if they're going to break the law. And since you couldn't prove any prejudice if you reveal that you're Muslim and end up not getting accepted, you're really out of luck and you will never know if they rejected you because they have another agenda.

    Go ahead and flame away. I'm not trying to be mean about what I said. I'm only being realistic about the pitfalls of saying that you're Muslim. :(
     
  18. pAkhtmAn

    pAkhtmAn pAkht mEmbEr

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    Hey All,

    I think it depends on the school. When I interviewed at Gtown, my interviewer was totally cool with the fact that I am Muslim. He started talking about some of his colleagues who are Muslim too, and we talked about Ramadan, medicine in the Middle East, and a whole bunch of other off-the-wall topics. It made for a really stress-free interview considering I was able to answer his questions pretty easily. It may just really depend on the interviewer and the school.

    thE pAkht
     
  19. pAkhtmAn

    pAkhtmAn pAkht mEmbEr

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    Hey xoomn, I think you need to do some more studying!
     
  20. ziadp

    ziadp Senior Member

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    xoomn

    To be a muslim is to declare/believe the shahada (Shahada: I bear witness that there is no god but God and I bear witness that Muhammad is the messanger of God.) The other 4 pillars of Islam (there are 5 in total. ) madatory parts of being a muslim and every muslim should complete their responsibilities. But, if some one is weak in faith and does not complete the other four pillars they are still considered a muslim. The thing that will negate your status is a muslim is declaring or believing that one of the five pillars is not part of Islam and not mandatory to complete. As long as you accept the fact that you are doing wrong by not doing them, you are fine. Once you think that you are doing right by not completing one of the pillars, then you are at jeapordy. That is my two cents. Sorry about the off topic discussion on religion.

    Noreen:

    Smile and have faith in who and what you believe. Define the ideals of your religion as you see it and approach the conversation from that point of view. An example: if some one asked me what I think of the extremist's take on Islam, my reply would be:

    I believe that they have mis-interpreted the Qur'an and the teachings of the prophet. I believe that Islam teaches the utmost tolerance and holds life as one of the most sacred things in this world. The religion teaches: "To take an innocent life is as if you have killed the whole of humanity (from the begining to the end of time)." This stresses the sanctity of life. The religion further teaches: "To save an innocent life is as if you have saved the whole of humanity (from the begining to the end of time). That is one of my core beliefs, and one of the reason's I want to become a doctor, to serve humanity in the best way possible.

    Just an example. The most important thing, reflect upon what you believe, be moderate. Islam, if you study it, upholds all the western ideals of democracy, freedom, social justice, humanity and humanitarism, and more. These ideals that we hold sacred in the west are held sacred in Islam.

    Just a few ideas for you. Most medical schools have muslim physicians working there. Contact their muslim medical associations and meet with these physicians before your interviews to learn more about the school and how active the muslim organizations. They may be able to help you with interviews.

    Lastly, if you ever interview at UTMB in Galveston, contact the Muslim Medical Association here, (i.e. me, i am the secretary) and we would be glad to help in what ever way possible.
     
  21. saiyagirl

    saiyagirl Guest

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    this is really hard to get away with. i wouldn't recommend lying about anything in an interview. while you bring up some points to think about (prejudice, etc). It's hard to deny you're a muslim considering they know your name, what student groups you were a part of, etc.

    furthermore, if a school is not planning on accepting muslim people, i can't imagine ever wanting to go there (and i'm not muslim by the way. but that sort of prejudice is wrong, and no one should lie just to become a part of it).

    What I would do, is think about some rational responses to questions about religion that would appeal to the common sense of a reasonable person. So you wouldn't say this or that simply because "my religion says to" or "my religion says not to."
     

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