Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Duke 'Call to Prayer' No More: Why the University Reversed Itself

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Duke 'Call to Prayer' No More: Why the University Reversed Itself

Article excerpt

Duke University announced Tuesday they would begin a campus-wide weekly Muslim call to prayer. Within 48 hours, after much public outcry, the university reversed its decision.

"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, stated in a press release. "However, it was clear that what was conceived as an effort to unify was not having the intended effect."

The "adhan," or call to prayer, was set to take place every Friday and be amplified through the Duke University Chapel bell tower. A male member of the Muslim Students Association would chant the traditional call to signal the beginning of the organization's prayer service. The prayer lasts about three minutes. While the prayer will still take place, it will no longer be amplified across campus. Rather, the prayer will take place in a non-amplified fashion on the quadrangle outside the Chapel. According to Duke, 700 of their 15,000 students identify as Muslim and about 100 attend the weekly prayer service.

Why did Duke's effort for religious inclusivity draw such a strong response?

The debate that arose on social media was fast and furious. Some students applauded the university for the development, but many quickly rejected the idea of a public broadcast. In light of the recent attack on Charlie Hebdo and religious tensions around the world, the motives for not just Duke's announcement but the timing of the announcement were called into question.

Franklin Graham, president of international relief organization Samaritan's Purse and the son of evangelist Rev. Billy Graham, viewed the announcement as a personal attack on Christianity. Amid the rapidly spreading hashtag #boycottduke, Mr. Graham took to Facebook, where his call to withhold support from Duke was shared over 77,000 times. …

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