DURHAM, N.C. — Hundreds of non-Muslims, including professing Christians, rallied outside of the Duke chapel on Friday as an estimated 100 Islamic students gathered for the call to prayer, which was broadcast from the university’s chapel steps.
As previously reported, the school had outlined in its student paper earlier this week that the “moderately amplified” chant would take place beginning Friday from the chapel bell tower.
“Members of the Duke Muslim Students Association will chant a weekly call-to-prayer from the Duke Chapel bell tower beginning Friday, Jan. 16,” Duke Today reported. “The chant, called the ‘adhan,’ announces the start of the group’s jummah prayer service, which takes place in the chapel basement each Friday at 1 p.m.”
The adhan declares, “I bear witness that there is none worthy of being worshiped except Allah. … I bear witness that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah. … Allah is most great.”
But as the call to prayer made headlines nationwide, some expressed concern over the accommodation in light of the violence that thousands of Muslims are committing worldwide in the name of Allah. Franklin Graham urged sponsors to withhold their funding until Duke ends the practice.
“As Christianity is being excluded from the public square and followers of Islam are raping, butchering, and beheading Christians, Jews, and anyone who doesn’t submit to their Sharia Islamic law, Duke is promoting this in the name of religious pluralism,” he wrote in a Facebook post on Wednesday. “I call on the donors and alumni to withhold their support from Duke until this policy is reversed.”
Duke University was also flooded with calls and emails from those nationwide that opposed the accommodation. On Thursday, the university announced that it had changed its plans.
“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, wrote in a statement. “However, it was clear that what was conceived as an effort to unify was not having the intended effect.”
Instead of having the Muslim call to prayer broadcast from the chapel bell tower, Duke University said that Islamic students would instead gather outside of the chapel to chant their call to prayer before moving inside to continue their meeting. On Friday, approximately 100 Muslim students attended the call to prayer, which was broadcast from the chapel steps via a small speaker.
According to reports, another 300 students gathered in support of the Islamic call to prayer, including students who professed to be Christians.
“In an impromptu prelude Friday, singer Richard Phillips, a Duke sophomore and a Christian, joined cellist Matthew Bunyi, a grad student and a Muslim, in a heartfelt performance of Ben E. King’s soul classic ‘Stand By Me,'” the News & Observer reported. “Members of the crowd, some holding signs that announced their support for the Muslim students, clapped and sang along.”
“Christians are called to be people of peace,” Sarah Martindell, a third-year-graduate student who held a sign that read “Duke Divinity Supports You,” told the Religion News Service. “This demonstrates our solidarity with our Muslim neighbors.”
Duke University, which was founded by Methodists and Quakers in the 1800’s and carries the motto “Knowledge and Faith,” notes that it hired its first full-time Muslim chaplain in 2009 and also launched its Center for Muslim Life that same year. It says that there are more than 700 students at the Bible Belt university that identify as Muslim.
“I think John Wesley would be turning over in his grave,” one minister told Todd Starnes of Fox News. “This is certainly not the Methodism of John Wesley—a faith that was firmly founded on the Bible.”