Monday, January 26, 2015

Should the Muslim call to prayer be allowed to play from Duke Chapel's bell tower?


         Duke University gave permission to students to begin a weekly Muslim call to prayer from the Duke Chapel on Friday January 16th but then canceled these plans after a significant amount of criticism and “credible security threats”. The 'adhan', is the chant would have been announced from the Chapel bell tower each Friday. The chapel’s description states it as, “a Christian church of uniquely interdenominational character and purpose, welcoming people of all faiths and circumstances,” and over the past years Muslim students have gathered to pray in the chapel’s basement.

After reading Duke's announcement, Franklin Graham, the president of Samaritan's Purse and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, began trying to force the university to reverse their decision by calling donors and alumni to withhold future donations. Graham states, “It’s wrong because it’s a different god,” and, “Using the bell tower, that signifies worship of Jesus Christ. Using (it) as a minaret is wrong.” The dean of the Duke Divinity School also raised concerns about the use of the chapel for the Muslim call to prayer. He states, “There are serious questions…about the wisdom and propriety of allowing Duke chapel to be used for this purpose. Despite some common beliefs and traditions, Christianity and Islam stand in significant theological tension with one another.”

Due to the vase number of calls the decision was overturned but the call to worship was announced in a different way. The members of the Muslim community gathered on the quadrangle outside of the chapel. This is a place where many interfaith programs and activities have been located. This video, from the Washington Post, shows the call to prayer on the quad as well as a few student reactions after the event.

This issue is relevant to our lives because colleges are supposed to be places to help foster tolerance, equality, and peace. College students are the people that are meant to lead the next generation and if universities are refusing to be tolerant of religious views, then they are sending the message that intolerance is acceptable and that some beliefs are more important than others. Duke’s decision to not allow the call to prayer to be heard from the bell tower shows that people, like Franklin Graham, are not willing to be part of a changed American society that accepts all religions. This issue was especially relevant because of the timing of the terrorist attack on the Charlie Hebdo newspaper on January 7th 2015. Due to the view of Islam throughout the world,  many Muslims are not viewed with respect and equality as they deserve. The fact that Duke canceled the public call to worship shows that people still are afraid and intolerant of Islamic beliefs.

I think that Duke University should not have made the decision to cancel the call to worship from the bell tower. It is the responsibility of the world to stand behind the Muslim community and not ostracize them any further. If this church tower was not connected to a college in any form I would respect the decision to not allow the call to prayer to be announced because it is a church used for only one denomination. The Duke Chapel is connected to a prestigious university and publicly states that it welcomes people from all different types of religions. Since the chapel has been a location for Muslim prayers before, I do not see why the public call to prayer would be any different. Muslim students should not have to hide in the basement to pray and if they want to help unite their community they should be allowed to do so, especially on a college campus.

11 comments:

Morgan Manchester said...

I agree with the author that the students of Duke whom would like to practice their religion should be allowed to do so regardless of what the school believes. It is stated that the chapel is one that is for the Christian faith and although it has an "interdenominational character", allowing students to practice their faith within the chapel somehow seems much different from having a public call to prayer. Of course, especially in regards to the law, it is not. Just because this prayer is an open and public call does not mean it is any different from allowing students to practice their faith in the basement and in fact, should be supported by the school as a way to encourage diversity. After doing some research, it is clear that Duke in "nominally secular" and therefore should allow the prayer if the chapel members agree to it and have the means to do so.

Mackenzie Y said...

I agree that Duke University should not have cancelled the weekly Muslim call to prayer from the Chapel. I think an interesting additional point to consider to solidify the argument is the nature of what the purpose of the adhan is meant to do: encourage mindfulness. With the fast-paced lives characteristic of college students throughout the country, it would be universally beneficial for people of all religions (or lack of religions) to have a weekly reminder to take time to stop and reflect.

Alex L. said...

I respectfully disagree with the author and the above commenters and support Duke University’s decision to have cancelled the call to prayer from the Chapel. Make no mistake about it, this was public relations nightmare, and the university should have never agreed to allow the prayer than renege at the behest of public outcry. Nonetheless, Duke University is a private institution and has the right to allow or disallow whatever sounds or symbols are presented at its Chapel. I believe the notion that this prejudice is particularly against Muslims is misguided. The fact is Duke University has celebrated Methodist roots and I do not hear them sounding the Shofar for their Jewish students either.

Emily C. said...

I, too, disagree with the author on the grounds that Duke University is a private institution and can therefore determine with which religions they would like to associate. If Duke were a public school I think this would be a different case entirely. I would be interested what a court would rule if this were a public school, but I would venture to guess that the school would either be required to play the call to prayer, or support no religions at all.

Molly H. said...

I agree with the author of this post in that, I too, am disappointed with Duke University. Yes, Duke University is a private institution which allows them to be able to determine which religion they choose to practice in the infamous chapel, but Duke University administration was also the one to allow Muslims to pray in the basement of the chapel prior to the issue of the prayer call. I believe that, if they allowed Muslims to use the chapel, which claims itself to be welcoming of people of ALL faiths, as a place of prayer, they should also allow the call to prayer to be sounded from the bell towers.
It infuriates me that Graham was quoted saying "it's wrong because it is a different god". Duke University should be ashamed that a member of their own community claims that, any other god aside from the one he believes in, is "wrong".

Libby W said...

I think this issue in particular is especially tricky because there are two clear aspects of it. Duke University is a private institution, therefore they can decide what they would like to do with their buildings and campus. However, the fact that they made the statement that the chapel is open to any religions clearly says that anyone can perform any religious ritual here. Duke has the option to not allow certain ceremonies, but they should make this known to the students and faculty of the university. Due to the fact that they did in fact state that they were open to other religious ceremonies, I think it is wrong that they cancelled this call to prayer.

Peter M said...

As many of the previous comments have noted, Duke is private institution so their choice to reverse its decision to have a Muslim call to prayer from the bell tower does not violate the clauses in the first amendment. I would also assert that Duke choosing to not have a Muslim prayer call from the bell tower of the chapel does not unfairly discriminate towards Muslim students. The chapel has historically functioned as a Christian church. The fact that the University allows Muslims to pray in the basement of the chapel does not obligate the University to use the chapel for religious purposes that conflict with the historical boundaries of the chapel.

brian regan said...

I support Duke's decision to cancel the call to prayer from the Chapel. If Duke were a public institution funded by the state, this would be a whole different issue. However, Duke is a private school and can institute whatever beliefs they'd like. In addition, I can understand the frustration from Christians that don't want their church to be used to worship a different god. I believe that since Duke is a private institution, they were within their rights after receiving many complaints and deciding to cancel the Muslim call to prayer from the Chapel.

Brandon Farrell said...

I am inclined to agree with the author that the practicing Muslims at Duke should be allowed to practice their religion regardless of what the school deems fit. It clearly states that Duke University's chapel is "uniquely interdenominational" and serves many "purposes". By allowing them to practice prayer in the basement already they are welcoming their religion. This prayer call is no different than allowing them to hold prayer inside the church. Duke administration may just be too worried about what the public thinks about them openly acknowledging a religion that has many negative stereotypes surrounding it.

Ben K. said...

I disagree with the author that Duke University should not have canceled the call to worship for Muslims on campus. The issue that seems to be overlooked in this scenario is there were “credible security threats” made to the chapel if they call to worship Muslims of the campus. Duke University has the responsibility to protect their students, even if it interferes with their religious rights. In certain cases, the protection of the individuals involved should come before granting religious rights.

Nate McGuinness said...

Obviously a terrible PR situation to be in for the school, although they're far from the victim here I think, even though I believe that either all religions or none should be allowed to use the space for practice, in the context of a private school perhaps they can renege on their original decision, that doesn't really make it any more or less discriminatory but since they are a private institution the concept of 'should' applies less in this situation. I guess the tipping point for me would be if Duke is going to express clear favoritism for one religion in particular and equally exclude all others perhaps that is a somewhat acceptable practice for a private school, but if they are only going to exclude muslims then that is a different matter, one that is arguably much more blatantly discriminatory.