Duke University cancelled plans Friday to permit Muslim students to lead a call to prayer from its iconic chapel tower, responding to threats of violence amid pressure from a Christian conservative leader.
The university had given the Duke Muslim Students Association permission to hold a three-minute, "moderately amplified" call to prayer from the tower on Friday and to continue doing so on a weekly basis. But administrators reversed their decision after facing "credible threats of violence," Duke spokesman Keith Lawrence said.
The plans to hold the call from the chapel's bell tower were announced Tuesday and quickly drew the attention of evangelical leader Franklin Graham, who began a campaign on Facebook criticizing the decision. Lawrence said the university's decision to cancel the call to prayer from the tower was "absolutely not" a response to Graham's opposition to the move and noted that students will be able to lead their chant in the courtyard in front of the chapel.
Graham also mentioned that the chant would include the phrase "Allahu Akbar," which was part of the chant that the assailants in last week's Paris attacks led before their rampage on the office of satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo.
Omid Safi, director of Duke's Islamic Studies Center, said he recognized the credible safety threat but was still dismayed by the situation. "I'm really disappointed, not so much in the decision, but disappointed that folks outside of the university can use the threat of violence to suppress the celebration of our diversity and inclusion," he said. He added that many of his colleagues had received threatening phone calls from people who he believes are not affiliated with the university, but that all of these came only after Graham posted his comments on Facebook.
Lawrence declined to comment on whether university would allow the Muslim Students Association to use the bell tower for future calls to prayer.