Duke University Changes Mind Over Muslim Call to Prayer

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After being embroiled in controversy after proclaiming that it would allow a Muslim call to prayer from its chapel, Duke University has changed their mind.

Earlier last week the university had announced it would allow a weekly, three-minute chant to take place at the chapel by members of the Duke Muslim Students Association.  The chant would be “moderately amplified” by the speakers in the chapel’s bell tower.

However, the decision has seen growing anger on social media as well as through other sources.  Evangelist Franklin Graham, president and CEO of the Charlotte-based Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, took to Facebook to ask people to stop funding the university until the decision was changed, writes Adam Bell for The Charlotte Observer.

“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,” Graham wrote on Facebook.

The post has been shared more than 57,000 times, receiving over 70,000 “likes.”

Prior to the reversal of the decision, Graham argued that the Muslim students should not be allowed to use chapel for the call to prayer because they were a different religion.  “The bell tower,” he said, “signifies worship of Jesus Christ. Using (it) as a minaret is wrong.”

Graham said that Duke should instead donate land for Saudi Arabia to build a mosque on for the students, adding, “Islam is not a religion of peace.”

Christy Lohr Sapp, the university’s associate dean for religious life, defended the school’s religious group in an op-ed for The Raleigh News and Observer, calling the group peaceful and prayerful, writes Jonathan Katz for The New York Times. 

“This opportunity represents a larger commitment to religious pluralism that is at the heart of Duke’s mission and connects the university to national trends in religious accommodation,” she stated.

The university had initially approved the idea in an effort to promote religious inclusiveness.  However, shortly after the decision was announced, the university was flooded with calls and emails, “many of which were quite vitriolic,” Schoenfeld said. “The level of vitriol in the responses was unlike any other controversy we have seen here in quite some time.”

“What began as something that was meant to be unifying was turning into something that was the opposite,” said Michael Schoenfeld, vice president for public affairs and government relations. “It was clear we needed to reconsider.”

Instead of meeting at the chapel, Muslim students will come together at the quadrangle outside the chapel for the call to prayer, called the “adhan.”  They will then move to their regular meeting place, the basement of the chapel, for prayers.  The group has used the basement for several years now, reports Jonathan Drew for Yahoo! News.

Of the 14,850 students who attend Duke University, over 700 identify as Muslim.