Duke University announced Thursday it had changed its position on allowing a Muslim call to prayer from its chapel. Instead, worshipers will have to gather outside and then move to their regular prayer area in the basement, the Charlotte Observer reported. They can use a megaphone to remind people to attend services but not the bell tower speaker system.
“Duke remains committed to fostering an inclusive, tolerant and welcoming campus for all of its students,” Michael Schoenfeld, Duke's vice president for public affairs and government relations, said in a statement. “However, it was clear that what was conceived as an effort to unify was not having the intended effect.”
The Durham, North Carolina, private university received criticism this week after it OK'd a request from the Duke Muslim Students Association to use the bell tower on Fridays to chant the “adhan,” which marks the start of prayer service. They planned to use its speakers to amplify their voices for about three minutes.
Although Duke Muslim chaplain Imam Adeel Zeb called it a move toward diversity at the school, famous evangelist Franklin Graham felt differently. He posted on Facebook that “followers of Islam are raping, butchering, and beheading Christians, Jews, and anyone who doesn't submit to their Sharia Islamic law.” Graham encouraged alumni to stop donating to Duke until the policy was revoked.
These comments were unwarranted, according to associate dean for religious life Christy Lohr Sapp. She wrote in an editorial that Duke's Muslim community, which includes about 700 students, exists far from extremists in groups like al Qaeda and Boko Haram. At Duke, they are "peaceful and prayerful," she said.
Schoenfeld told the Associated Press Graham's outrage wasn't the only factor in canceling the call to prayer -- it simply didn't have the intended effect. “There was considerable traffic and conversation and even a little bit of confusion, both within the campus and certainly outside, about what Duke was doing,” he said. “The purposes and goals and even the facts had been so mischaracterized as to turn it into a divisive situation, not a unifying situation.”
Twitter showcased a wide range of reactions, with many wondering what caused Duke's change of heart:
The Pope's calls for tolerance make more sense than, say, Franklin Graham who apparently thinks people are being beheaded at Duke.
â€” Christine (@cmdeb) January 15, 2015
As a student who participates in Duke Christian religious life, I can say I don't feel "threatened" by the call to prayer. We get everything
— A. Knowles (@Worth1000Nerds) January 15, 2015
#DUKE? What were you thinking? Kids can't pledge allegiance to the flag...No prayer for Christians , but Hey let's be p.c and allow Muslims?
— Robin Reese Aloha! (@Bellawhimsea) January 15, 2015
— Jennifer Precht (@KnitGirlJ) January 15, 2015
So.... Duke U changed it's mind about the Fri call to prayer. Was it the public protests, alumni withholding money, or the Duke family?
— NotSt Michael (@grampa_Tex) January 15, 2015
— Tenzin Pelkyi (@TenzinPelkyi) January 15, 2015
Well good to know Duke decided to rethink their idea of playing the Call to Prayer over loud speaker.
— Colton Moss (@CS_MOSS) January 15, 2015
This is excellent news, no Muslim call to prayer should have been allowed especially from a Chapel. ~TCC http://t.co/tc5mlW7EIH
— Awaken America (@OLiberals) January 15, 2015
***HELL YES!!!! VICTORY! DUKE REVERSES DECISION TO ALLOW MUSLIM CALL TO PRAYER AT ITS CHAPEL!*** - Duke... http://t.co/w6RI7dvgdF
â€” Jesi JO (@jesijo1) January 15, 2015
unbelievable. I get why duke had to but it sucks that we have to pander to such close minded people.
â€” Vanessa Wu (@vanessawuhoo) January 15, 2015