Duke University Chapel

The Controversy Surrounding Duke University’s Muslim Call to Prayer

Duke University Chapel

Duke cancels its Muslim call to prayer after online backlash and threats, but the university ended up hosting it anyway.

January 16  was slated to be a momentous occasion at Duke University. It was the first time that the Muslim call to prayer, the adhan, was going to be issued from the chapel before the services would begin. However, after a social media uproar and commentators crying foul, it appeared as though the opponents of the call to prayer at Duke had won as the university announced that it would not be happening. However, on Friday morning a quieter call to prayer did indeed sound, leaving many to wonder what caused the multiple reversals.

A Hopeful Change

The Duke Muslim Students Association was one of the first organizations on campus to request the call to prayer. According to officials at Duke, it would consist of three minutes of chanting that is moderately amplified so that it can effectively reach students on campus. For Muslims, this call to prayer is meant to serve as a reminder of the need to worship and reflect on their faith. By allowing the call to worship to be played on Fridays, Duke hoped to become even more diverse. However, not everyone was impressed with this noble idea.

Words Of Anger

Before the first call to prayer was even set to occur on the Duke campus, there was a huge public outcry. In light of the recent attack in France, many of those who were against the adhan suggested that playing the phrase “Allahu Akbar” would be disrespectful. Others, like Franklin Graham, President of the Billy Graham Evangelical Association and Samaritan’s Purse, took a more hard line approach, insisting that the alumni and donors withhold support of the university to prevent the call to prayer. By Thursday, the adhan had been replaced by a gathering outside of the chapel because it was “not having the intended effect” of unifying people on campus.

Friday’s Call To Prayer

While it was not amplified enough to reach across the campus, the call to prayer did occur as scheduled by the Duke Chapel. Using a wireless speaker in front of the chapel, the adhan was performed by a student at the bottom of the bell tower. This has left many people upset with the feeling of a lack of hospitality towards the Muslim students, as well as the fact that the university changed course after receiving threats. Some are even calling the act cowardly, for allowing a minority to prevent a unifying event from occurring on campus. According to Duke administration, it all boiled down to student safety. With credible threats against those organizing and participating in the event, they felt it would be best to put off playing it from the bell tower. For the time being, it appears as though there will be no changes in Duke’s policy towards the adhan.


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