Duke University Chapel

Duke University’s Muslims & the need for interfaith dialogue

Duke University Chapel

The religious debate continues after the cancelled adhan, a Muslim call to prayer, at Duke University as more individuals weigh in.

Earlier this month, officials at Duke University announced that they would allow the Muslim call to prayer to take place from the bell tower on campus. This caused many reactions in the community, with some saying that it represented a progressive mindset, while others said that it should not be allowed to occur and alumni members should withdraw support and condemn the actions. In the end, the call to prayer was issued more quietly in the quad in front of the bell tower after a series of threats occurred, but the controversy is still ongoing in this case.

Did Duke Give In?

One of the emerging opinions in the Duke University case is that they gave into pressure that was mounting against them. After all, Duke’s reasoning behind changing their ruling on using the bell tower was fueled by what they considered to be “substantial threats”. Those who believe that they gave in say that they should have allowed the call to prayer to occur even if the event had to be attended by security workers. Either the elements causing discord would have been identified, or, more likely, the call to prayer would have been issued without any problems occurring at all. By reversing their decision in this case, Duke University effectively showed that they will bend to the whims of those who threaten to use violence.

Is It A Sign Of Deeper Problems?

Another popular opinion about the Duke University case is that it is representative of deeper problems in the United States. The fact that a call to prayer was met with such harsh criticisms and threats shows that there are still many people who look down upon Muslims. One of the most vocal critics of the call to prayer was Franklin Graham, an evangelist, helped to ignite social media with his calls to pull funding from the school over his misunderstanding of the use of the phrase “Allahu Akbar”. He believed that these worlds, common in Muslim prayer, should not be allowed to be said on campus as they were recently used in the deadly attacks in France by extremists.

At the same time, Graham is a supporter of religious rights in the United States, and voices his opinion that Christians are constantly under attack from various sources and need to be protected through legislation. The irony of holding one’s hand out for religious freedom on one hand while working to deny it with the other is lost on him as well as many others. This shows a systemic problem in the religious culture of the US, where there must be a constant balancing act between allowing religious freedom while also ensuring rights of free speech. The Duke University case highlights these problems and leaves many wondering what the solution to such troubles can be.

Duke University Discusses the Issues

On Monday, Duke University hosted a forum to discuss the events surrounding the call to prayer. The event, called “The Adhan at Duke: A Public Forum on Power, Solidarity and Pluralism”, was sponsored by Duke’s Islamic Studies Center and featured panelists Omid Safi, director of the Duke Islamic Studies Center, and Imam Adeel Zeb, the Muslim chaplain at Duke. During the forum, non-Muslims were given the opportunity to ask and learn more about Islam. Moreover, panelists encouraged people not to hold minorities in America accountable for the actions of people who live on the other side of the planet but happen to share religious beliefs. The forum promoted interfaith dialogue, both formally and, especially, casually.


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