Duke cancels Muslims’ call to prayer after Franklin Graham leads revolt

Duke Chapel The Center of Controversy Scheduling a Muslim Call to Prayer This WeekOfficials at Duke University abruptly dropped plans to broadcast the Muslim call to prayer from the iconic bell tower of Duke Chapel after online protests led by evangelist Franklin Graham and unspecified security threats.

The decision on Thursday (Jan. 15) came one day before the “adhan,” 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 the other end of the state, in 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.

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 Chapel is a nondenominational Christian church that hosts Catholic and Protestant worship services, as well as Friday prayers for Muslim students.

Duke Chapel is a nondenominational Christian church that hosts Catholic and Protestant worship services, as well as Friday prayers for Muslim students.

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.”

Omid Safi, director of the Duke Islamic Studies Center, said in an email that he was deeply disappointed. About 700 of the university’s more than 14,000 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.

Inside of the Duke Chapel

Inside of the Duke Chapel

“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 Muslim American Society 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 adhan 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.”

Religion News Service

RNS is owned by Religion News LLC, a non-profit, limited liability corporation based at the University of Missouri School of Journalism. Its mission is to provide in-depth, non-sectarian coverage of religion, spirituality and ideas.

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15 Comments on "Duke cancels Muslims’ call to prayer after Franklin Graham leads revolt"

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The United Methodist Reporter wants to encourage lively conversation about The United Methodist Church and our articles in the belief that Christian conversation (what Wesley would call conferencing) is a means of grace. While we support passionate debate, we cannot allow language that demeans or demonizes others, and we reserve the right to delete any comment we believe to be harmful or inappropriate. We encourage all to remember that we are all broken and in need of Christ's grace, and that we all see through the glass darkly until that time we when reach full perfection in love. May your speech here be tempered with love, and reflection of the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. After all, "There is no law against things like this." (Galatians 5:22-23)
 
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George Nixon Shuler
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I suppose in this context “off the wall” means not politically correct to the right-wing bullies.

George Nixon Shuler
Guest

Translation: this fellow wishes to bully me by implying I am mentally unsound because he does not want views which conflict other than his own articulated here, or so it seems to this rational observer.

My friend, why the concern about my residence or job? Go ahead and send me an e-mail with yours and why you want to know.

Paul W.
Guest

Interesting take on this by RNS. The secular media (MSN, CNN, FoxNews, AP) all interviewed Franklin Graham, and he definitely stated his views quite bluntly, but RNS seems to be the only news service suggesting that Mr. Graham was “leading” the protests.

Personally, I really like Franklin Graham. His organization, Samaritan’s Purse, is involved in great humanitarian and missions work throughout the world and he is following in his father’s footsteps, boldly preaching the Gospel and attempting to live out an authentic Christian witness. I’m sorry that others feel differently.

George Nixon Shuler
Guest

Your point is well-taken. Samaritan’s Purse is an exemplary organization. However, as titular head of Billy Graham Ministries, Franklin Graham has recklessly waded into political water and made intemperate remarks about Muslims, LGBTs, and the President. That is what I object to, and I believe his remarks besmirch the good name his father worked to maintain. He speaks of his misspent youth, but it is in his middle age he has acted reprehensibly.

Cully
Guest

Franklin Graham is a very fine man. His faith is much to the right of those who submit comments opposed to the action Rev. Graham supports. It is very disheartening that so much contention exits in the Body of Christ. Do you expect that is directly opposite of what our Heavenly Father had hoped for His Church and His children…………………….

George Nixon Shuler
Guest
Interesting. Ever listen to Randy Newman’s song, “That’s Why I Love Mankind,” which is an attempt to explore God’s feelings about such things? It might be worth a listen. Some say in hebbin there will be no conflict, but that would be impossible if human beings are there. Others explain that away by saying the only people there will be just like them, removing the need for conflict, but suggesting an evil in the dark design of a creator of such an obscenity beyond which there could be no understanding. I think reality indicates while the Creator was hopeful, s/he… Read more »
Mark Matthias
Guest
Why, because he disagrees with your love of Islam? He apparently has a substantive understanding of Judeo-Christian theology. It is a fact that Jesus didn’t recognize pluralism; nor did He patronize other religions. Yet He did not spend much time talking about other religions — instead, He spent His time demonstrating the exclusiveness of the Judeo-Christian reality (like it or not). So, you can curse Graham until the cows come home. If he is speaking on behalf of the Bible, (and it is clear that he is) then your problem is not with Franklin. Jesus didn’t come here to head… Read more »
George Nixon Shuler
Guest
Well, MM, I could say you make some points but any points you have made are negated by your bearing of false witness and arguing in bad faith. I did not express any “love” of Islam or curse Graham fils. Perhaps if you would choose to amend your behavior such points may be appropriately addressed. Oh, and perhaps you didn’t know, but people with a knowledge of how things happened to lead to the development of ISIS attribute that phenomenon to the U.S. invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, initiated by those two erstwhile United Methodists, George W. Bush and Dick… Read more »
Fred Massey
Guest
Just a FYI. North Carolina Council of Churches supported Duke’s effort to allow the call to prayer from the bell tower, saying it would only help everyone’s faith (http://goo.gl/KaySfg). It was only radical Christian Rev. Franklin Graham who blasted Duke’s decision to allow Islamic prayers. Rev Franklin Graham posted on his Facebook page, riling up his disciples to cause a ruckus. Just a reminder, it was Rev Franklin Graham’s father, Billy Graham who was caught talking with President Nixon and was taped discussing ”total Jewish domination of the media” and “Satanic Jews”. I guess the saying is true, apple does… Read more »
Irene Abbott
Guest

Radical Christian Franklin Graham???? Do you know what the word radical means? Do you not see what is going on outside your door?

George Nixon Shuler
Guest

Why not enlighten us rather than speaking in riddles?

George Nixon Shuler
Guest
That’s an interesting point about Graham pere’s aside to Nixon. My inclination is however to be charitable. Nixon himself was quoted in an anti-Semitic remark about “a Jewish cabal” in the Bureau of Labor Statistics that he believed were cooking the books on unemployment statistics. My theory is Graham was playing to his host’s bias. Prior to his dotage, Billy had expressed some regret for his mixing of politics and religion. He notably chastised religious right leaders for their focus on social issues which he believed hindered the “Great Commission” with their antics. Time has proved he was right about… Read more »
George Nixon Shuler
Guest
As time goes by, just when one begins to think that Franklin Graham cannot sink any lower, he defies the odds and does so. Was there ever in history a man so willing to trade on his father’s name to advance himself willing to go to such extremes to do so? One wonders – gee, even the fictional “LuckY Eddie” in the movie “Reservoir Dogs” never sinks so low. Graham besmirches his father’s name by promoting Islamophobia, heterosexism, woman hatred, etc., even to the degree of lying about the President to assist his patrons. Morality and Duke, now, that’s quite… Read more »
Irene Abbott
Guest
Well, Mr. Shuler, what nice things are you talking about? Maybe beheaded individuals? 10 year old little girl bombers? Are you so blind that you can’t see that the religion you are wanting to embrace is exactly opposite of the Christian religion which tells us to love God and love others? The Christians you say that desire dominance merely go out and tell the world about what Jesus has done so that we can all have eternal life. The “particular sect” of muslims require strict adherence to their sharia law that is oppressive and dominating. You really should open your… Read more »
George Nixon Shuler
Guest

A lot of questions, arguing in bad faith, accusing me of things which I did not say, is what you have written here. I never “embraced” Islam. Do you believe the Christians of the 16th to 19th centuries who enslaved Africans and massacred Native Americans were representative of their faith? Lean some perspective. Hint: avoid Faux News – that rots your brain while trying to trick you into voting against yourself.

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