SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS)— Before it unraveled, a plan to use Duke University’s chapel tower in a call to prayer for the school’s Muslim community was meant to promote religious unity and pluralism. However, days after announcing the idea, the university changed course Thursday following a flurry of calls and emails objecting to the plan.
The University said they changed course because of a, “credible and serious security threat.”
One of those critics, Rev. Franklin Graham, son of the renowned evangelist Rev. Billy Graham, posted on Facebook that the followers of Islam are butchering people who don’t share their beliefs. In addition he urged Duke Alumni and supporters to withhold their donations and that he won’t back down or apologize. Furthermore Graham said Duke should apologize to Christian students and to those who donated money for the chapel.
Dr. David Morgan, professor and chair of the Department of Religious Studies at Duke University said Graham’s comments are inflammatory and unfortunate.
“They don’t do anything to promote the public discussion of religion in the United States. I consider his views utterly objectionable. It’s certainly no surprise that he would seize this opportunity inserting himself into a private university’s attempt to engage its students in religious opportunity and tolerance. He’s in the business of making controversy,” Morgan said.
But was Duke’s decision based on political pressure or was it really security?
“The chapel had the right idea in wanting to accommodate Muslim students. Muslim students have used spaces within the chapel building for prayer and meeting for years. That’s not new,” Morgan said.
He clarified that it’s the practice of sounding the call to prayer from the tower that would have been new and that Jewish students and organizations have met in the chapel and used it on various Jewish occasions.
Morgan added that the university has nothing to gain from being controversial except to protect students from possible reprisals or threats from extremists. He touched on what he called a “nasty” history in the United States of religious extremists who resort to terrorism and violence including those who identify as Christian.
“Conservative members of each religion might mirror each other in certain ways, but what I think would be disastrous would be if we saw extremist Christians in the United States pursue the kind of violence that say the Ku Klux Klan once exhibited. It was indeed a Christian organization, a group of people who called themselves Christian and understood their violence as serving a Christian end. That is the very last thing we’d want to see reignited today.”