8 most Muslim-friendly countries for international students

Muslim-friendly countries
Muslim-friendly countries are places where the needs of Muslims are fulfilled and their religious practices are respected. Source: AFP

It seems like there’s no end to the conflict, hatred and discrimination involving Muslims today.

In a world like this, the most Muslim-friendly countries are like havens for Muslim students and travellers.

For Muslims, being able to study, work and travel abroad while practising their religion is unparalleled.

Everyone deserves to feel safe and included — and the hard truth is some countries do this better than others.

The most Muslim-friendly countries in the world today not only practise tolerance to Muslims, but actively promote inclusivity and diversity.

The countries on the other end of the spectrum, however, do not.

Muslim-friendly countries

Experiencing racial discrimination and injustice can take a heavy emotional toll and trigger chronic stress. Source: AFP

The types of discrimination towards Muslims

Many times in the news have we seen stories highlighting the challenges faced by Muslim students due to bias.

Instances of Islamophobia, ranging from derogatory remarks to physical attacks, have been reported globally. 

According to the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), there has been an increase in complaints of anti-Arab and anti-Muslim bias in the US since the Israel-Hamas war, emphasising the harsh reality many face. 

Such incidents not only pose immediate physical threats but also create fear and anxiety, making it difficult for students to concentrate on their studies.

Muslim-friendly countries

Zayn Malik who was the only Muslim person of colour in One Direction, faced racial discrimination during his time in the band. Source: AFP

In fact, even celebrities have not been immune to discrimination. Take, for instance, the experiences of Zayn Malik, the world-famous former One Direction member. 

He has openly discussed how Islamophobia has affected him personally and professionally.

He revealed instances of facing discrimination and prejudice in the music industry, with some questioning his abilities and potential based on his Muslim identity. 

Such experiences serve as a reminder that discrimination not only affects everyday life for Muslim students but can also have an effect on their chosen fields of study and career paths.

As you embark on your journey to study or work overseas, being aware of these challenges and choosing Muslim-friendly countries that actively promote diversity and inclusion becomes not just a preference but a strategic necessity for a fulfilling and successful experience.

Why it’s important to know the most Muslim-friendly countries

Discrimination, unfortunately, remains an issue with all minority groups.

Incidents of discrimination against international students have increased in recent years. And although not all incidents turn physical, there’s still a psychological toll to it.

Feeling unwelcome or being subjected to bias can lead to heightened stress levels, anxiety, and even a sense of isolation. 

According to the National Institute of Health, discrimination experienced by international students can contribute to a decline in their mental health, which will affect their ability to engage in the educational experience fully. 

As such, selecting Muslim-friendly countries that promote diversity, tolerance, and a welcoming environment is not just a matter of personal preference but a necessity for Muslim international students.

Efforts to become more Muslim-friendly

Fortunately, several countries around the world have made an effort to ensure the safety and well-being of their Muslim international residents, fostering an environment of inclusivity and tolerance. 

One example is Canada, which has implemented anti-discrimination laws and policies to protect individuals based on their religious beliefs.

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees freedom of religion, and various provinces have enacted legislation to combat discrimination on religious grounds. 

Another example is Malaysia, where Islam is the official religion, and the government has implemented measures to safeguard the rights of its Muslim population.

Malaysia has ensured Muslim international students and workers access to halal food, prayer facilities, and culturally sensitive accommodations.

There’s no need to search for halal grocers here — all meat sold in supermarkets are by default halal, unless stated otherwise.

Some universities have also taken steps to foster a safe and inclusive environment for international students putting them on the list of Muslims.

One example is the University of Toronto, which initiated the “Muslim Students’ Association” (MSA), a vibrant group that serves as a hub for cultural exchange, social activities and support networks. 

The MSA provides a space for Muslim students to connect with one another and acts as a bridge to educate the broader university community about Islam and dispel misconceptions.

These are great progress — and we’re happy to report that these aren’t the only examples of the most Muslim-friendly countries and universities today.

Muslim-friendly countries

With close to four million Muslims in the UK (according to 2021 census), there are many initiatives aimed at spreading awareness of Islamophobia. Source: AFP

8 most Muslim-friendly countries in 2024

Below are the eight most Muslim-friendly countries for students in 2024, chosen based on the following factors:

  • The standard of living you’ll be able to experience as a Muslim in these countries
  • Access to a range of cultures, traditions, and practices
  • Economic development within the country

Top universities are identified according to the QS World University Rankings 2024.

1. UK

Top universities:

  • University of Cambridge (#2)
  • University of Oxford (#3)
  • Imperial College London (#6)

The UK boasts the most multicultural capital of Europe —  London — and the first Muslim to lead any Western capital city: London mayor Sadiq Khan.

These two facts alone say a lot about how the Brits treat Muslims.

While there is no specific law tackling Islamophobia, the UK has laws that cover hate crime, online abuse, and equalities motivated on the grounds of race or religion.

These include Part III of the Public Order Act 1986, Crime and Disorder Act 1998,  and Online Safety Act 2023, to name just three.

And as there’s close to four million Muslims in the UK (according to 2021 census), there are many initiatives aimed at spreading awareness of Islamophobia.

For example, the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), one of the country’s biggest umbrella groups for Muslim organisations, has held a “Visit My Mosque Day.”

Thousands of people reportedly visited some 80 mosques, where believers “explain their faith and community beyond the hostile headlines.”

Muslim-friendly countries

Malaysia’s prime minister (second from left) and his wife (far left) are practising Muslims, as are the majority of the country’s citizens. Source: AFP

2. Malaysia

Top universities:

  • Universiti Malaya (UM) (#65)
  • Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) (#137)
  • Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) (#158)

With Islam being the official religion, the country is home to a large Muslim population.

Ethnic Malays, defined in the federal constitution as Muslims from birth, make up approximately 55% of the population, according to the US Department of State.

Life here is defined by a unique blend of Islamic traditions and diverse cultural influences from its significant populations of Chinese, Indian, and indigenous people.

The government actively promotes interfaith harmony and encourages tolerance among different religions, which allows non-Muslims to practise their faith without interference.

No matter where you are in Malaysia, it’s easy to find facilities separated for men and women, prayer rooms and mosques (complete with Quran and prayer mats), as well as halal (or pork-free) food.

Muslim-friendly countries

Lately, Taiwan is increasingly promoting a Muslim-friendly environment at home. Source: AFP

3. Taiwan 

Top universities:

  • National Taiwan University (NTU) (#69)
  • National Yang Ming Chiao Tung University (#217)
  • National Cheng Kung University (NCKU) (#228)

Taiwan may not be the first country that comes to mind when you think about Muslim-friendly countries.

Lately, however,  this first-world Asian giant is increasingly promoting a Muslim-friendly environment at home.

After all, it is host to around 50,000 practising Muslim Taiwanese and 250,000 Muslim migrant workers and international students.

Since 2011, the Taiwanese government has started actively working with Taiwan’s Chinese Muslim Association to promote halal certification.

As a result, there are now more Muslim prayer rooms and bathroom facilities in tourist spots and public transport facilities.

The observation deck at Taipei 101, a skyscraper that was the largest engineering project ever in the history of the country’s construction business, even has a sign indicating the direction of Mecca.

Muslim-friendly countries

Most recently, Brunei has been ranked fifth among Muslim women-friendly destinations, as revealed by the Global Muslim Travel Index (GMTI) 2023. Source: AFP

4. Brunei

Top universities:

  • Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD) (#387)
  • Universiti Teknologi Brunei (#525)

Located on the island of Borneo, Brunei boasts one of Asia’s highest standards of living, with a strong economy based on oil and gas production.

The country’s economic freedom score is 65.7 on the 2023 Index of Economic Freedom, making its economy the 48th freest in the 2023 Index.

One way that Brunei is promoting its Islamic identity is through the implementation of Sharia law since 2014.

This has been met with controversy from human rights organisations, who claim that it restricts personal freedoms.

However, the Brunei government argues that they are simply upholding traditional Islamic values and norms. 

Most recently, Brunei has been ranked fifth among Muslim women-friendly destinations, as revealed by the Global Muslim Travel Index (GMTI) 2023.

The country scored highly on faith restrictions, places of prayer and airport services but declined on destination marketing, connectivity and enabling environment.

Muslim-friendly countries

Jordan is a land of ancient wonders and modern progress, making it an ideal destination for those seeking to experience the perfect blend of tradition and innovation. Source: AFP

5. Jordan

Top universities:

  • University of Jordan (#498)
  • Jordan University of Science & Technology (#731-740)
  • Al-Ahliyya Amman University (#801-850)

Another Muslim country that offers an exceptional standard of living is Jordan.

Jordan is a land of ancient wonders and modern progress, making it an ideal destination for those seeking to experience the perfect blend of tradition and innovation.

The country’s rich history can be seen in its many archaeological sites, including Petra, one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

Over the years, Jordan has made significant strides in economic development with a stable political landscape that attracts international investors.

After COVID-19, Jordan’s real GDP — a common metric to measure a country’s economic performance — grew by 2.2% in 2021, following a 1.6% contraction in 2020, according to the World Bank.

Growth rebounded to 2.5% in the first quarter of 2022, supported by the reopening of the economy and the recovery of contact-intensive services, notably tourism.

Muslim-friendly countries

The country is home to some of the holiest sites in Islam, including Mecca and Medina, which attract millions of pilgrims annually. Source: AFP

6. Saudi Arabia

Top universities:

  • King Abdulaziz University (KAU) (#143)
  • King Fahd University of Petroleum & Minerals (#180)
  • King Saud University (#203)

Situated in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia is widely recognised as the birthplace of Islam and holds immense religious significance for Muslims worldwide. 

The country is home to some of the holiest sites in Islam, including Mecca and Medina, which attract millions of pilgrims annually.

Also, Saudi Arabia has a rich cultural heritage reflecting its Islamic roots and Bedouin traditions. 

It hosts the Muslim World League and the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, institutions dedicated to preserving Islamic interests.

What’s more, more than a billion Muslims turn five times daily toward Makkah to pray and millions visit the country to perform their religious duties for Hajj and Umrah in the holy city, as well as to complete various pilgrimage rituals at the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah.

Despite being one of the most conservative countries in the world, Saudi Arabia has undergone significant changes over recent years.

In 2018, women were granted permission to drive for the first time in decades – a move that was celebrated by many as a step towards greater gender equality.

Muslim-friendly countries

There are 1,300 ethnic groups and more than 300 languages spoken in Indonesia. Source: AFP

7. Indonesia

Top universities:

  • Universitas Indonesia (#237)
  • Gadjah Mada University (#263)
  • Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB) (#281)

Indonesia is a Southeast Asian nation that prides itself on its diversity and tolerance — no small feat for a country with over 1,300 ethnic groups and more than 300 languages spoken.  

This diversity is evident in many aspects of everyday life, from food to clothing to religious practices. Despite being the world’s largest Muslim-majority country, Indonesia has a reputation for religious tolerance.

The country recognises six official religions, including Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, and indigenous beliefs.

Although religion plays an important role in Indonesian society and politics, it does not define one’s identity or restrict personal freedom.

Most recently, Indonesia was one of the top destinations for Muslim travellers in the Mastercard-CrescentRating Global Muslim Travel Index (GMTI) 2023.

The annual report analyses data across nearly 140 countries to offer insights into which destinations best meet the needs of the growing halal travel segment.

Positioned at the crossroads of Europe, Asia, and Africa, this country enjoys world-class infrastructure, state-of-the-art facilities, and a tax-free regime, which has attracted many international companies seeking to establish their presence in the region.

Plus, the Emirati government’s commitment to diversifying its economy has led to significant investment in innovation and technology.

Muslim-friendly countries

With free zones, business-friendly policies, and a hub for global halal tourism, the UAE is a friendly country for Muslims to live in. Source: AFP

8. United Arab Emirates

Top universities:

  • Khalifa University (#230)
  • United Arab Emirates University (#290)
  • American University of Sharjah (#364)

The United Arab Emirates is home to over 200 nationalities. There are about 40 churches, two Hindu temples, a Sikh temple, and a Buddhist temple, which welcome multi-national congregations.

It’s a country that leads in global halal tourism. Visit the heritage areas and shops at the banks of Dubai Creek — here you’ll find some of the best Muslim-friendly things to do in Old Dubai.

Studying here means greater access to a job in the leading hub for trade and innovation in the Middle East. 

The country boasts several free zones where expatriates and foreign investors can have full ownership of companies.

The Dubai Internet City (DIC) is home to over 1,400 technology companies that have helped transform Dubai into one of the most digitally advanced cities in the world.