Duke University will not call for prayer on Fridays, at least not in the public form they intended. Duke’s intention of demonstrating unity while promoting their university’s beliefs with regard to tolerance and acceptance have been side swiped by a flurry of opposition and possible threat to school’s safety.
The University was attempting to promote their ideal of a diverse community’s ability to learn from each other while each group or individual developed their own identity. The university, through their student affairs department, for years have advocated for various special programs that do exactly that. Their programs not only include a Muslim student association but also serve the Jewish, Panhellenic, Lesbian, gay and transgender, Christian, Buddhist, and Black culture groups and so many more. Though their chapel and its tower, at the center of the controversy, have long been seen as a major iconic symbol for the university’s campus and as a Christian one, many religious practices have been held there. They have long held not only Christian services but also Hindu, Buddhist and even Muslim ones. The challenge came with the idea that Jummah, Friday’s call for prayer, was going to be held in a public form in front of the chapel using the tower. It would not be a novelty to have Jummah prayers called on campus. For many years past this had been done, the difference was that it was done from the basement of the chapel, not in front and certainly not from its very public tower.
The entire prayer service would not be held outdoors, it was only the call to prayer that would be public. After which they would go to the basement of that chapel and participate in their group prayer held at noontime on Friday’s as they had done so many times in the past.
The effort has not been received with the warm embrace the university had hoped for. The opposition has been both vocal and came with possible threats to campus safety. Duke will not call for prayer possibly because of the reaction that has been contrary to its original intent and as they hold their responsibility to put student and faculty safety above all else.
A major vocal opposition came from evangelist Franklin Graham, who on January 14 posted very clear disdain for Duke’s proposed call for prayer. His statements generalized Christians as being excluded from public forms of worship while Muslims were committing acts of violence against not only Christians but anyone who did not succumb to their ideals and beliefs. He ended his remarks by touching a financial nerve with the urging for all Duke donors to withhold donations until Duke had a change of heart and put a stop to the call for prayer.
Though no official comment was made, speculations that threats to Duke campus did in fact increase concerns for safety for not only Muslim students but all who walk the campus daily. It, no doubt, played a role in the about face Duke made to not call for prayer.
By Clea Tucker
Image Courtesy of Siuki Wong – Flickr License