Earlier this week, Duke University announced it would allow the Muslim call to prayer to be chanted from atop the campus chapel each week, but the university reversed course on Thursday. The first call to prayer, or adhan, by members of the Muslim Students Association was scheduled to take place on Friday, a move that angered some Christian groups.
“Evangelist Franklin Graham, president and CEO of the Charlotte-based Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, denounced the move Wednesday and called for people to stop funding Duke until it reversed its decision,” according to the Charlotte Observer. A Duke spokesman told WRAL a “credible and serious security threat” also played a role in the university changing its mind on allowing the weekly, three-minute “mildly amplified” chant from the chapel bell tower. “Duke remains committed to fostering an inclusive, tolerant and welcoming campus for all of its students,” Michael Schoenfeld, 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.”
Christy Lohr Sapp, an associate dean for religious life, wrote an op-ed in the News & Observer on Wednesday outlining why the university was incorporating the call to prayer into campus life. “This opportunity represents a larger commitment to religious pluralism that is at the heart of Duke’s mission and connects the university to national trends in religious accommodation,” Lohr Sapp wrote. “The chanting of the adhan communicates to the Muslim community that it is welcome here, that its worship matters, that these prayers enhance the community and that all are invited to stop on a Friday afternoon and pray.”
More than 700 Duke students—or roughly 5% of the student body—identify as Muslim, according to the university. Traditional Muslim Friday prayers, which start with the call to prayer, have been held in the chapel basement for years. Instead of the chapel bell tower, the call to prayer will be recited in the quad outside the chapel, a common site of interfaith programs, Duke said in a statement.