Hundreds of Duke students rally with Muslims at Friday’s call to prayer

Duke Divinity students protest cancel of Muslim Call to Prayer | Photo via Twitter

DURHAM, N.C. In the end, the Muslim call to prayer was broadcast from a small black speaker perched on the steps of the Duke Chapel Friday (Jan 16), as hundreds of students, some Muslim but mostly non-Muslim, gathered in solidarity for the right of all students to pray publicly.

The gathering, replete with signs reading “Let us worship together,” and “Please pray here,” was a quiet and peaceful, and emerged spontaneously after Duke University officials on Thursday (Jan. 15) abruptly reversed their decision to broadcast the Muslim “adhan,” or call to prayer, from the bell tower atop its iconic chapel.

The plan was to recite a moderately amplified call to prayer with the words “Allahu Akbar,” or “God is great,” from the 210-foot tower for about three minutes each Friday.

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

Instead, the prayer was broadcast from a portable public address system at the foot of the chapel, first in English, spoken by a woman, then in Arabic, recited in the familiar sing-song chant.

Speaking to a flank of reporters and TV cameras prior to the 1 p.m. call to prayer, Michael J. Schoenfeld, Duke’s

vice president of public affairs and government relations, offered little insight into the cancellation besides saying there were “security concerns.” Neither he nor Luke Powery, the dean of the chapel, used the word “threat,” and it appeared no law enforcement agencies aside from Duke campus police were called to investigate.

While Duke officials denied it, some suspected the real cause for the cancellation was the loud and forceful criticism voiced by the Rev. Franklin Graham, of Boone, N.C., who called on Duke alumni to withhold donations until the call to prayer was suspended. On Friday, Graham called the change “the right decision.”

Graham, who leads his father’s Billy Graham Evangelistic Association from the other end of the state, in Charlotte, said the call to prayer was the very one shouted by Islamist militants during last week’s deadly terrorist 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.

Many students who arrived on the lawn outside the chapel shortly after noon said they suspected Duke caved into donors or potential donors.

“I think it was money,” said Mathew Wiseman, a graduate student in religious studies who stood near the chapel entrance along with throngs of other students. “There were donors who threatened to stop supporting the university.”

Duke was founded by Methodists, and its limestone chapel at the center of campus is used as a Christian church. But as the dean of the chapel explained to reporters, the chapel also serves a “moderator” and “convener” for other faith groups on campus, including Muslims.

“Our aim is to live into a generous hospitality toward different traditions,” said Powery.

Duke has attracted a growing number of Muslim students, now numbering about 700. In 2008, it became one of the first American universities to hire a full-time Muslim chaplain. Shortly afterward, it began offering Friday jumah prayers, which now take place in the basement of the chapel. A few years ago it opened a Center for Muslim Life in a converted ranch house on campus.

duke divinity students protest cancel of muslim prayer Twitter-UMRImam Adeel Zeb, the current chaplain, acknowledged that the university has done more than many others to make the campus life more inviting to Muslim students.

“We’re very proud to be here as Muslims at Duke,” Zeb said. He also told reporters there are no plans to reintroduce the bell tower call to prayer.

First to show their support to the Muslim students on Friday were Duke Divinity School students who gathered on the lawn in large numbers.

“Christians are called to be people of peace,” said Sarah Martindell, a third-year-graduate student who drew a sign that said “Duke Divinity School Supports You.” “This demonstrates our solidarity with our Muslim neighbors.”

But the gathering included many others, including a smattering of students from other universities. Sarah Zamamiri, a Muslim, who recently graduated from the nearby University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said nothing would have stopped her from showing her support to her Muslim brothers and sisters.

“I felt really disappointed,” she said of Duke’s decision. “What Duke did was to amplify the whole conversation of diversity and inclusion. It was a great day when I heard it. It’s so unfortunate it had to be cancelled.”

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23 Comments on "Hundreds of Duke students rally with Muslims at Friday’s call to prayer"

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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
Guest
From Charisma News: When Duke renounced their plans to host a Muslim call to prayer from their bell tower, some universities were perplexed, namely UCLA. The Californian college has an Islamic student association, as well as an Islamic newspaper. The call to prayer, known as adhan, has been broadcast for “some time,” proclaiming “Allah is most great” across the campus. A video was posted earlier this week showing the adhan sounding through the student center and students gravitating toward the athletic field to pray. The video, posted on YouTube, has drawn both support and anger from viewers. “How about instead… Read more »
Elaine T.
Guest

Father, forgive me for getting drawn into these discussions….it is so easy to be a-know-it-all.
I fear that one day I will wake up one morning, look in the mirror and see the god that I really worship. Help me not to rely on my imaginings and all the readings that picture you, God, the way I want you to be. Let me worship and love you as you are. I seek your face not mine! Amen

Bruce Davis
Guest

There is, indeed, only one God. But recent events have me wondering, all over again, if al-Lah and the One made known to us in Jesus Christ are really the same.

Rev. Khalila RedBird, MDiv
Guest
Islam looks to the Quran as the word of the One God as transmitted through the prophet Muhammed (peace be unto him), and Islam also considers the books of the Torah, the Psalms, and other parts of the Hebrew Bible as the word of the One God as transmitted through the prophets including Adam, Moses, David, and others (peace be unto them) and the Gospels as the word of the One God as transmitted through the prophet Jesus/Isa (peace be unto him). Those who view Islam from the outside will continue to have their individual opinions as to the nature… Read more »
Paul W.
Guest

So, googling your link indicates that you are a member (possibly leader) of a Wiccan church who’s 5 tenets are incompatible with both Christianity and Islam, who is now here promoting Islam and implying Islam’s compatibility with Christianity? Interesting.

George Nixon Shuler
Guest
Well, if there’s only one God….. You might want to look at Karen Armstrong’s books on the development of Judeo-Christian-Islamic Culture. They’re painstaktingly dry, but one can see the concurrent development of what we call Western Civilization. If anyone is laboring under the illusion Christians were pure and Muslims bloodthirsty throughout the fifteen hundred years those two traditions have coexisted, you’re in for many surprises. Religion as such always played out in the geopolitics of the various epochs. One can certainly appreciate Muslim innovators in such fields as mathematics, navigation, trade, and literature at the various stages and if one… Read more »
Paul W.
Guest
I would suggest that you read the Koran and find out for yourself. Trust me, if you have read the Bible, reading the Koran will remove all doubt in your mind concerning whether Christianity and Islam are compatible. The Koran is a very strange mix of references to the people and events in the Bible, rules for Muslims, commands from their god Allah, events in the life of Mohammed, and praise to their god Allah. (Much of the Koran is commentary that will make no sense unless you are familiar with the people and events in the Bible, except that… Read more »
Hakon R Losvik
Guest

In what way is the Chapel diminished by bring used by muslims? This looks to me as an attempt to strenghten the view of muslims as others, enemies. In my limited understanding of Christian theology I would say that “holiness” is not dependant on time or place, or which building er gather in.

Marilyn Brookes
Guest

I think Muslims should be invited in to churches to pray when Christians are invited into Mosques to pray.

Rasmi K
Guest
I will not argue the university’s decision simply because, being a Muslim myself kind of makes me bias in that argument, also because many others have debated my points more eloquently. But I would just like to mention that recently in my hometown of Amman, Jordan, there was a snowstorm that made it difficult for Christians to get to churches and it was in the mosques where they were invited to hold mass on Sundays. There is no reason Christians shouldnt be able to use mosques (or any place of worship) according to Islam. Christians are also welcome to attend… Read more »
Susan L
Guest

Is it unChristlike, in times of trouble, to extend a hand to those beset by the hatred of others? Why sit back and wait to be treated kindly before one shows kindness to others? Matthew 7:12 says: “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” Doesn’t seem to be anything about them doing to you first.

Rhonda
Guest

As a divinity graduate, I would think you’d understand that in Isaiah’s “house of prayer for all nations”, he was referring to those foreigners who had joined themselves to The Lord. Context is a tricky thing.

George Nixon Shuler
Guest

So – to you, rabbis are okay, but imans? There is only one God.

Donnie
Guest

Duke was right to cancel the call to prayer. These students are an embarrassment.

George Nixon Shuler
Guest

What in your view makes them embarrassing?

Margaret Gallagher
Guest
I am a life-long Methodist, Duke graduate, and was one of “The Original Twelve” under Rev Mike Webber who reinstated The Wesley Fellowship at DU in 1983-84. Needless to say, I have a vested interest in this issue. The Duke Chapel was built as a house of Christian worship. My research on the Adhan indicates it is a specific recitation which includes “God is Great” and also “There is no god but Allah and Mohammed is his Prophet/Messenger”(depending on translation). My web search included suficenter.org and other Islamic sites. I have yet to see an article on the Duke Chapel… Read more »
George Nixon Shuler
Guest

Hmm, I acknodlege your personal stake, I believe you are wrong. Our military commissions Muslim, Buddhist, and Hindu chaplain, and others, though at their founding it was not anticipated there would be Chaplains other than Christian ones. Universities are no different, unless specifically sectarian. A House of God on a university should do no less. Besides, there is only one God, whatever deity is called.

Mary Page
Guest

This is Millenials AMEN and so be it https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=agxu9-xd44w

Keith A. Jenkins, Ph.D.
Guest
Unlike Goodson Chapel, which serves as the central place for worship for Duke Divinity School, Duke Chapel was intended to serve as a central place of worship for all members of the Duke University community, as well as a beacon of faith visible for miles in every direction. When it was consecrated as a place of Christian worship in 1935, Christianity was probably the only faith represented at Duke, so its purpose as a consecrated place of worship and its larger, more inclusive purpose as both symbolic and tangible center for spiritual life and campus ministry were identical. But times… Read more »
George Nixon Shuler
Guest

Excellent points, all. Thank you.

Rev. Khalila RedBird, MDiv
Guest
Dr. Jenkins, your post was gentle, illuminating, and welcome after the yes-then-no granting of the use of the bell tower for the Adan. Thank you. I am neither Christian nor Muslim, but I was raised as a Methodist, and reading the other comments and the one reply to your comment, I am reminded why I left the Methodist Church nearly 50 years ago. The love for our neighbors that Jesus taught was so important seems to have gone with the wind. The one God of the Bible and the Quran must weep over the arrogant children who can only call… Read more »
Margaret Gallagher
Guest

Keith Jenkins : Really? Your view of those who see this differently from you is “like…children when they were younger” and goofy dogs? Ironic when dealing with the topic of tolerance…..

George Nixon Shuler
Guest

Tolerance does not mean people are to be excused for bad behavior.
Say, are you the notorious Maggie Gallagher of NOM?

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