Praying for Respect

Duke U., amid criticism from evangelicals and a security threat, won't allow a Muslim call to prayer from the chapel bell tower.

January 16, 2015

Duke University on Thursday reversed a policy announced just two days earlier to allow Muslim students to offer a call to prayer on Friday afternoons from the campus chapel's bell tower.

Muslim students had been excited about their further inclusion and visibility in religious life at Duke, an institution with Methodist roots but with students and faculty members of many faiths today. But the announcement drew intense criticism from some evangelical religious leaders.

A statement from the university Thursday said that the adhan, "which announces the start of a weekly prayer service that has been held in the chapel basement for several years, will not come from the bell tower."

The statement quoted Michael Schoenfeld, vice president for public affairs and government relations, as saying: "Duke remains committed to fostering an inclusive, tolerant and welcoming campus for all of its students. However, it was clear that what was conceived as an effort to unify was not having the intended effect.”

While the statement did not reference security threats, many news outlets reported that there were "credible" security threats that influenced Duke's decision.

Among the most prominent critics of the now abandoned policy was Franklin Graham, who now leads the ministry created by his father, Billy Graham. Franklin Graham praised Duke's Thursday announcement.

But earlier in the week he urged Duke alumni to stop donating. In a Facebook post, Graham said: "Duke University announced today that they will have a Muslim call to prayer from their chapel bell tower every Friday. As Christianity is being excluded from the public square and followers of Islam are raping, butchering, and beheading Christians, Jews, and anyone who doesn’t submit to their Sharia Islamic law, Duke is promoting this in the name of religious pluralism."

Comments on social media include many that suggest Graham's initial posts had plenty of fans. One woman took to Twitter to say: "I'm so relieved all the High School Seniors who got Early Acceptance at Duke don't have to pack Burquas -- for now."

But many other comments expressed outrage at Graham and the university's reversal.

One student wrote on the website of The Duke Chronicle: "As a student, I'm disappointed in you, Duke. All the backlash shouldn't be bowed to. If anything it's all the more reason a stand should be taken, and open up the conversation about why on Earth anyone is bothered by the idea of members of an established and respected world religion praying at a private university."

Another wrote: "Duke is not Charlie."


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