RALEIGH, North Carolina – Duke University plans to hold a weekly call-to-prayer chant for Muslims from the bell tower at its famous chapel, a move that has drawn the ire of a prominent Christian evangelist.
The school said in a news release that members of the school's Muslim Students Association will recite the call lasting about three minutes from the bell tower, and that it will be moderately amplified with a microphone and speaker. The call to prayer coincides with the group's prayer service in the chapel, which is identified by the school as a Christian church but also hosts Hindu services and has been used for Buddhist meditations.
The chapel's associate dean for religious life, Christy Lohr Sapp, said the move shows the school's commitment to religious pluralism. In a column written for the News and Observer in Raleigh, Lohr Sapp acknowledged the headlines generated by violence by extremists in ISIS, Boko Haram and al-Qaida, contrasting it to what's happening on campus.
"Yet, at Duke University, the Muslim community represents a strikingly different face of Islam than is seen on the nightly news: one that is peaceful and prayerful," she wrote.
The private university in Durham, northwest of Raleigh, was founded by Methodists and Quakers, and its divinity school has historically been connected to the United Methodist Church. It has nearly 15,000 students, including about 6,500 undergraduates. The school's insignia features the Christian cross and a Latin motto translated as "learning and faith."
The university says it has more than 700 students who identify themselves as Muslim, and it hired its first full-time Muslim chaplain in 2009. Muslim students have been holding prayer services in the basement of the chapel for the past two years.
Franklin Graham, the son of the Rev. Billy Graham and leader of the Samaritan's Purse charity, urged Duke alumni to withhold support because of violence against Christians that he attributed to Muslims. He wrote on Facebook that the decision is playing out as "Christianity is being excluded from the public square."
Lohr Sapp said in her column that Duke was going a step further than other schools that may only have a multi-purpose prayer room that can be used and modified by different groups.