DURHAM, N.C. – Duke University has canceled its plans to have a Muslim prayer announcement broadcast from Duke Chapel’s belltower on Friday afternoons.
The university announced its plans to facilitate a call to prayer on Thursday, but Duke officials acknowledged the decision resulted in unintended backlash.
“Duke remains committed to fostering an inclusive, tolerant and welcoming campus for all of its students,” said Michael Schoenfeld, vice president for public affairs and government relations. “However, it was clear that what was conceived as an effort to unify was not having the intended effect.”
The initial plan was to broadcast a weekly call to prayer from the chapel’s bell tower starting Jan. 16. The prayer service would then take place in the chapel basement.
The university said it will welcome members of the Muslim community to gather on the quadrangle outside the chapel, before moving to its regular location in the chapel basement.
The chant was intended to announce the start of the Duke Muslim Student Association’s prayer service, which the Muslim chaplain at Duke said “brings Muslims back to their purpose in life.” However after the school announced the weekly broadcast, the university’s Facebook page was flooded with angry comments.
One commenter said they had “totally lost respect for Duke University.”
Another said that the university is a “… center for political correctness,” and that it’s “just plain bizarre that [they are] going to do an Islamic call to prayer.”
The plan also drew the ire of evangelist Franklin Graham, who urged Duke alumni to withhold support because of violence against Christians that he attributed to Muslims.
In a statement posted on Facebook, Graham, the head of Samaritan’s Purse and the son of Billy Graham, said, “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.
“I call on the donors and alumni to withhold their support from Duke until this policy is reversed.”
Duke, a private school, was founded by Methodists and Quakers and has a divinity school historically connected to the United Methodist Church. Duke has roughly 15,000 students, including 6,500 undergraduates. The school said about 700 students are Muslim.