January 16 2015 by Mariam Sobh, Religion News Service

    Officials at Duke University abruptly dropped plans to broadcast the Muslim call to prayer from the iconic bell tower of Duke Chapel after unspecified security threats and online protests led by evangelist Franklin Graham.
     
    The decision on Thursday (Jan. 15) came one day before the “Athan,” or traditional call to prayer, was to be broadcast from the heart of campus in Durham, N.C.
     
    Michael Schoenfeld, a Duke vice president for public affairs and government relations, said in a statement the school remains committed to “fostering an inclusive, tolerant and welcoming campus” for all students but “it was clear that what was conceived as an effort to unify was not having the intended effect.”
     
    Schoenfeld said campus officials were aware of several security threats but declined to elaborate.
     
    Graham, who leads his father’s Billy Graham Evangelistic Association from Charlotte, said the call to prayer includes the words “Allahu Akbar,” or “God is great,” which was shouted by Islamist militants during last week’s deadly attacks across Paris.
     
    “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,” he said on his Facebook page.

    Duke01-16-15-1.jpg

    Flickr photo courtesy Erini Barker
    Duke Chapel sits at the heart of the Gothic-style campus in Durham, N.C.

     

    Graham urged alumni to withhold donations until the call to prayer was suspended, and the #boycottDuke hashtag spread on Twitter. On Friday, Graham called the change “the right decision.”
     
    Duke was founded by Methodists but is now largely secular. The Duke Chapel at the center of campus bills itself as a “Christian church of uniquely interdenominational character and purpose,” said Graham.
     
    Duke Divinity School houses the Baptist House of Studies that utilizes Baptist faculty and staff to serve more than 100 students from various Baptist affiliations. The Baptist House is not funded by or associated with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina or the Southern Baptist Convention.
     
    Omid Safi, director of the Duke Islamic Studies Center, said in an email that he was deeply disappointed by the decision. About 700 of the university’s 18,000 students are Muslim.
     
    “What could have been a celebration of Duke’s commitment to our robust and diverse religious community has had to be adjusted due to the bigotry of Franklin Graham (a noted Islam-hater since 2001) and anonymous people leaving threatening and violent messages for members of the Duke community.
     
    “I know that there are many inside of the Duke community and beyond who want to see us be better, be a loving and welcoming community in which all of us bring our religious particularity to the public arena. I look forward to that beloved religious community at Duke, in America, and in the world community.”
     
    Safi said Duke’s Muslim community had received “credible threats” but said Friday prayers would continue as normal in the Duke Chapel lounge.
     
    “The call to prayer will be given. It just won’t be amplified from the Chapel top,” he wrote.
     
    Khalilah Sabra, executive director of the MAS Immigrant Justice Center, and a member of the Raleigh-Durham Muslim community, said the reversal was the result of Graham pulling “his ranks together.”
     
    Sabra cited Graham’s outspoken criticisms of Islam. After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, he called Islam a “very evil and wicked religion” and last year called Islam “a false religion.” In 2010, he apologized after questioning President Obama’s Christian faith, saying he was “born a Muslim … and the Islamic world sees the president as one of theirs.”
     
    “Basically for years, since 9/11 he has waged a campaign against Islam, against the rights of Muslims,” said Sabra. “He has said basically they’re going to hell. He never misses an opportunity to suppress the dialogue of Muslims in North Carolina.”
     
    Sabra said Duke’s Friday prayers were supposed to be followed by an open discussion to talk about the pros and cons of having the “Athan” amplified from the bell tower. She said it would have been an event that gave Muslim students a chance to feel like they belonged.
     
    “The majority of students were kindergartners when 9/11 happened. They were reared in a hostile environment, full of Islamophobia and bigotry. This was a way to get them feeling included and connected, to get them to connect with the American college environment, and the whole thing went up in smoke.”

    1/16/2015 2:45:04 PM by Mariam Sobh, Religion News Service | with 1 comments
    Filed under: Duke Chapel, Duke University, Muslim prayer




Comments
Paula
Interesting the Duke Univ. Muslim population (less than 4% of the student population) was disappointed, yet if it had been a Christian event (broadcast from the tower) multiple groups would have been crying fowl. It is informative to see who cries "bigot" when Christians take a stand, but do not see the "log in their own eye" as they do what they say Christians are doing. Thank the Lord for Franklin Graham who stood up for American principles. It is amazing to see how America/Americans have embraced a religion that has attacked American & Americans (among others who don't believe as they do), longing for the day "the infidels" are destroyed. It is one thing to be "tolerant" but not at the destruction of our country and way of life.
1/16/2015 4:34:04 PM

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