Just two days after announcing that a weekly Islamic prayer chant would be made from its chapel bell tower, Duke University reversed itself Thursday evening, citing the uproar following the announcement.
The adhan chant, which lasts about three minutes, summons Muslims to make their five daily prayers, and is typically issued from the minarets of a mosque. Starting on Friday, Muslims at Duke were to be granted use of the Duke Chapel bell tower once a week to summon students for the jummah, the Friday afternoon congregational prayer that is held in the chapel’s basement.
Now, the university says that backlash to the announcement has made it reconsider.
“Duke remains committed to fostering an inclusive, tolerant and welcoming campus for all of its students,” said Michael Schoenfeld, Duke’s vice president for public affairs, said in a statement. “However, it was clear that what was conceived as an effort to unify was not having the intended effect.”
Schoenfeld also said that Duke had been barraged with negative phone calls and emails after its previous announcement.
Instead of hearing the adhan from the bell tower, with amplification, Duke’s Muslims will instead hear the chat issued on the grounds in front of the chapel without any technological assistance.
One of the major critics of Duke’s earlier announcement was the Rev. Franklin Graham, son of famed evangelist Billy Graham, who condemned Muslims for “raping, butchering, and beheading” those of other faiths and called on Duke alumni to withdraw support for the university.
On Thursday, Graham refused to back down, telling Durham-area broadcaster WRAL he was happy with the school’s decision.
“I don’t feel I owe an apology to anybody. I think Duke University, they owe an apology,” he said. “They’re the ones who owe the apology to Christian students and the ones who donated money for the chapel.” Graham added that allowing Muslims to use a Christian church’s bell tower would transform it into a minaret, an outcome he described as “a slap at the Christian faith.”
The reversal was immediately condemned by members of the Muslim community.
“Duke took a coward’s way out and cannot pretend to be advocates of diversity,” Khalilah Sabra, executive director of the Muslim American Society in Raleigh, told WRAL in an email. “This was primarily because it caved into the fallout nourished by racism… A huge gap could have been bridged; now it may remain broken.”
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