Duke to Host Muslim Call To Prayer – Truth! & Resolved!

Duke to Host Muslim Call To Prayer – Truth! & Resolved!

Summary of eRumor:  

Duke University administrators announced plans to host a regular Muslim prayer at its chapel bell tower on Friday afternoons.

The Truth:


It’s true Duke University announced a weekly call to prayer for Muslims at a chapel on campus, but the decision was amended days later due to controversy.

The announcement was appeared on the website of Duke Today, a university publication, on January 13, 2015: 

DURHAM, NC – Members of the Duke Muslim Students Association will chant a weekly call-to-prayer from the Duke Chapel bell tower beginning Friday, Jan. 16. 

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 service is open to the public.

The chant lasts about three minutes and will be moderately amplified.

“The adhan is the call to prayer that brings Muslims back to their purpose in life, which is to worship God and serves as a reminder to serve our brothers and sisters in humanity,” said Imam Adeel Zeb, Muslim chaplain at Duke. “The collective Muslim community is truly grateful and excited about Duke’s intentionality toward religious and cultural diversity.” 

Franklin Graham, son of the late televangelist Billy Graham, was vocal in his criticism of the Muslim call to prayer on his Facebook page:

Duke University announced today that they will have a Muslim call to prayer from their chapel bell tower every Friday. 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.

Others joined Graham in rallying against the call to prayer, and the university’s Facebook page was inundated with vocal opposition from other Christians. Graham then posted a second message about the prayer: 

The Muslim call to prayer that has been approved to go out across the campus of Duke University every Friday afternoon for three minutes includes “Allahu Akbar”—the words that the terrorists shouted at the onset of last week’s massacre in Paris. It includes the proclamation that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah. Will evangelical Christians be allowed the same three minutes weekly to broadcast the message across campus that God Almighty of the Bible sent His Son Jesus Christ to offer forgiveness of sins and salvation to all who will repent, believe, and call on His Name? Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).

In the face of strong opposition, Duke officials released a second statement on January 15, 2015, that explained that the university had decided to hold the Muslim call-to-prayer chant outside the chapel bell tower:

Duke University has reconsidered a previously announced plan to present a traditional Muslim call-to-prayer from the Duke Chapel bell tower, campus officials said Thursday.

The call to prayer, or “adhan,” which announces the start of a weekly jummah prayer service that has been held in the Chapel basement for the past several years, will not come from the bell tower on Friday as announced earlier.

“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.”

Jummah prayers have taken place in the basement of Duke Chapel for many years, and start with the traditional call to prayer chant. Members of the Muslim community will now gather for the call-to-prayer chant on the quadrangle outside the Chapel, a site of frequent interfaith programs and activities, before moving to its regular location for prayers. More than 700 of Duke’s 15,000 undergraduate and graduate students identify as Muslim.

“Our Muslim community enriches the university in countless ways,” said Schoenfeld. “We welcome the active expression of their faith tradition, and all others, in ways that are meaningful and visible.”

Duke has Christian ties that date back to its founding in 1924. The university was founded around the Methodist-affiliated Trinity College and was known as Trinity-Duke in its early years. The book, “The Launching of Duke University,” provides a detailed account: 

Initially, Duke followed the long-established, Methodist-sanctioned policy that Trinity had scrupulously observed: no dancing on campus. Off the campus and with approved arrangements concerning
loation, hours and chaperones, university officials shut their eyes about what many churchgoers still regarded as a serious social vice.

Today, Duke’s bylaws state that its aim is to “assert faith in the eternal union of knowledge and religion set forth in the teachings and character of Jesus Christ.” But Michael Schoenfeld, vice president of public affairs and government relations at Duke, said Duke is an independent and non-sectarian institution with ties to the church that are primarily historical and symbolic.

Schoenfeld made the comment after a court decision threatened the ability of campus police to patrol religious institutions in 2010.