In the days after Duke University officials announced they would amplify a Muslim call to prayer from the bell tower of the chapel that is a symbol of campus, reactions continued to churn. The university announced that it had canceled the call to prayer, then held a modified version from the steps rather than the bell tower of the Duke University Chapel, an event that drew hundreds of supporters. On Friday, a call to prayer will be chanted before the weekly observance, but students have chosen not to amplify it.
Some Muslim leaders defended the school's original decision to amplify the adhan, or call to prayer, through a microphone so it would sound out over campus. But the dean of Duke's Divinity School wrote a letter to the community saying he was surprised and concerned about the original plan.
[Read the letter from Duke Divinity School Dean Richard Hays]
"Any decision to permit the use of a prominent Christian place of worship as a minaret for Muslim proclamation will, in our time, have immediate global repercussions," he wrote in part. "Any discussion about such a proposal should take into careful account the perspective of millions of Christians living in Islamic societies where their faith is prohibited or persecuted."
Omid Safi, director of Duke's Islamic Studies Center, responded to the letter in an e-mail along with photos of Divinity School students who came to support the call to prayer last Friday: "This is partially a fight between the Duke Chapel/Office of Religious Life (which sees itself as serving all of the Duke community) and the Divinity School leadership (which clings to a Methodist tradition). I respect the position of the Divinity School Dean, even as I recognize that we had many students from the Divinity School itself that came out on Friday to stand with the Muslim community in solidarity. So yet again we see that no one person speaks for a tradition."
Imam Adeel Zeb, the campus Muslim chaplain and director of the Center for Muslim Life, wrote a personal account of the controversy on the ISLAMiCommentary Web site. When he was invited by school officials to participate in the call to prayer, "I was so thrilled, and the students were so excited that they were almost in tears," he said. He said no other university that he knows of does an amplified call to prayer.
"Once the decision to alter the location got out, many in the U.S. Muslim community, like me, started to doubt whether we really are welcome here in America. A 'hate does win' type of mood had set in. Muslim community morale at Duke and beyond fell rapidly, almost in a flash."
But, he wrote, "We did have the call to prayer and we did it in the Chapel. It was amplified outdoors and 500 people witnessed it. Again all Praise and Thanks is to God."