After calling it part of a “larger commitment to religious pluralism,” Duke University said a couple of days ago that it would allow members of the Duke Muslim Students Association to chant the weekly call-to-prayer from the campus Chapel bell tower (below):
The chant, called the “adhan,” announces the start of the group’s jummah prayer service, which takes place in the chapel basement each Friday at 1 p.m. The service is open to the public.
The chant lasts about three minutes and will be moderately amplified.
No big deal. They would’ve had my support. But then yesterday, school officials abruptly decided against it:
The call to prayer, or “adhan,” which announces the start of a weekly jummah prayer service that has been held in the Chapel basement for the past several years, will not come from the bell tower on Friday as announced earlier.
“Duke remains committed to fostering an inclusive, tolerant and welcoming campus for all of its students,” said Michael Schoenfeld, vice president for public affairs and government relations. “However, it was clear that what was conceived as an effort to unify was not having the intended effect.”
What the hell happened? Duke has a religious history, but it’s not like students and faculty members have to sign a statement of faith or anything, so that wasn’t the problem.
Schoenfeld said Thursday night that a “serious and credible” security threat was one of the reasons for the decision. University officials declined to elaborate.
Omid Safi, director of Duke’s Islamic Studies Center, said Thursday evening that the call to prayer was scaled back because of “a number of credible threats against Muslim students, faculty and staff.” The school, he said “is treating this as a criminal matter” and that the threats are “external.”
That’s absolutely despicable. I don’t know how anyone could find the simple chant anything to worry about.
Though, while he didn’t call for violence, Franklin Graham sure had a problem with it. The Christian bigot and son of Billy Graham said on Facebook that allowing the chant to happen would somehow mean promoting “Sharia Islamic law”… because, you know, all Muslims are terrorists in his eyes:
(By the way, that is what real Islamophobia looks like.)
For a while yesterday, it looked like those posts were the main reason for the cancellation: A bunch of Franklin-Graham-following assholes were refusing to give the university money and that made them change course. (Though, to be clear, that no longer seems to be the driving force here.)
But I will say that it also didn’t help that Bryan Fischer said allowing the call to prayer meant “inviting the demons of the abyss onto that campus.”
So, in summary, school officials gave Muslim students the opportunity to use the bell tower to hold their call-to-prayer and a bunch of people everywhere freaked the fuck out, perhaps spurred by the inflammatory comments made by Christian demagogues. The problem here isn’t the Muslim students. It’s the people who think only Christianity should get all the attention and privileges on campus.
(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to everyone for the link)